Friday, July 16, 2010

Love Among Pompeii’s Ruins Extends to Dogs (from the New York Post)

Published: July 15, 2010

(An adoption project helps find homes for stray dogs like Sallustius in Pompeii, Italy.)

POMPEII, Italy — One of Pompeii’s most famous mosaics is of a leashed dog with the warning “cave canem,” or beware of the dog.
That message had become all too appropriate in recent years, as visitors to the city buried by Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79 could attest. Droopy dogs wandering forlornly along ancient streets were a common sight here. Fights could erupt at a moment’s notice, over females in heat or territory, but mostly over food. There were isolated cases of dogs attacking people. More commonly, people were scared, because the dogs tended to travel in packs, tracking tour groups in the hope of scoring tasty treats.

When the Italian government declared a state of emergency for Pompeii in 2008, Culture Minister Sandro Bondi cited the strays as among the principal problems, along with illegal tour guides, inadequate washroom facilities and general neglect of the site.
But all that began to change last November, when administrators at the ruins introduced a project to promote the adoption of stray dogs from Pompeii.
On its Web site, the project is rendered as (C)Ave Canem. Giacomo Bottinelli, the coordinator of the project, acknowledged that the Latin was not correct. “It should be Ave Canis” — for Hail Dog — “but we didn’t want to get into anything too complicated,” said Mr. Bottinelli, who studied classical philology in college.
During the past six months, 22 dogs that had been living in the ruins have been adopted. Several more are waiting for a home.
Sallustius “is so sweet,” Mr. Bottinelli said of the 1-year-old red mongrel that never strayed far from his side. “But no one’s wanted him yet.”
Before the project started, Sallustius risked the same lonely fate as the other 70,000 dogs that the Italian Antivivisection League estimates roam the streets of the surrounding Campania region. Beyond those dogs, about 9,000 are housed in local pounds, according to 2009 Health Ministry Statistics.

“The problem of stray dogs is common in all of southern Italy,” said Mr. Bottinelli, who is also the Antivivisection League’s national director for adoptions. “Unfortunately, much of the population does not know about microchips, and they aren’t used to neutering their pets.”
Though official numbers are hazy, the Antivivisection League believes that some 135,000 animals are abandoned in Italy each year, usually during the summer, adding to the country’s stray population of more than 3 million, most of them cats.

But Pompeii has its own particularities.
More than two million tourists — potential food dispensers to dogs — visit the site each year. And every May and October, thousands of pilgrims come on foot to Pompeii to pray at the Sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin of the Rosary, which is just five minutes from the ruins. For reasons that remain obscure, many dogs are left behind when the pilgrims depart, Mr. Bottinelli said.
Illegal dog fights organized by the Camorra, the main organized crime gang here, are also common, creating an added risk for abandoned dogs. All these factors make for “critical problems in Pompeii,” Mr. Bottinelli said.
The dogs in his program get a complete medical checkup, including vaccines, and are neutered. They also receive a microchip implant that registers them in a national data bank. Only after all that can they be adopted.
“The aim is to control the stray population with the dogs’ well-being in mind,” said Roberto Scarcella, the veterinarian responsible for the adoption project. “It’s a cheaper alternative to putting them in a cage in the city pound.”

The ancient names given to the dogs — Vesonius, Diomedes or Mulvia, for example — are intended to reflect the dogs’ provenance, but the adoptive families are free to change them.
Last January, Petty Officer First Class Michael Zdunkawicz of the United States Navy, who works at the NATO base in Naples, adopted a black Labrador retriever from Pompeii. The dog was called Lucius, “but that sounded too much like the devil for me, and he’s everything but the devil,” said Petty Officer Zdunkawicz during a telephone interview. “So we renamed him Benedicto, after the pope.”
The adoption took about a month, he said, and volunteers from Pompeii made sure that his living quarters in Naples were suitable. (The adoption process is rigorous, with extensive vetting of the prospective families.)

Arguably, the excavation site at Pompeii has far more serious problems than strays.
Last month, the Italian government announced the end of the state of emergency, but much remains to be done. Many houses are still closed to the public; some recent restorations done under the aegis of the government-appointed emergency commissioner have been criticized; and concerns have been raised about transforming Pompeii into a money-making operation at the expense of protecting its archaeological wealth.

Still, the success of the dog adoption program, which costs a little more than $100,000, mostly for medical bills, suggests that small battles can be won. The project officially ends this summer, but local volunteers have been trained to take over. It is a necessity because new strays arrive all the time.
“The other side of the coin is that if you want to abandon your dog, you bring it to Pompeii because someone will take care of it,” said Pasquale Riso, a local veterinarian and a volunteer at the site. “So some people may try to take advantage of the situation.”

A version of this article appeared in print on July 16, 2010, on page A11 of the New York edition.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Field Week 1 Journal entry 1: The Pompeiian Forum

The Pompeiian Forum

Our first activity on site this week was an orientation tour of the scavi for newcomers. This gave us a chance to look at the forum area, an area we would also get a more detailed look at with a lecture by John Dobbins in Week 3. As such I have conbined information from both to give students and followers of the blog an overview of the forum.

For some time, scholars have argued over the nature of the forum area. many have argued that it was of an earlier Samnite construction phase within the city or Etruscan in nature. The Pompeii Forum Project under the leadership of Dobbins for many years in the 1990's worked and excavated to uncover the true nature of the forum and its use of space. The forum project's findings were somewhat revolutionary to those pumped out by excavators for many many years. The archaeological evidence which included excavation and measurement of structures and the analysis of both Roman and Etruscan units of measurement, concluded quite conclusively that the forum of Pompeii, as it was in AD79, was indeed a Roman forum. It is now suggested that after the Roman colonisation of the city they found a pre-forum type space. It was there in this space probably used for the town markets and also gatherings and meetings that the Romans added their own traditions to reorganise and further define the space into the forum that was Roman in nature. As Dobbins explained; "they made it grand and implanted their institutions and structure."

This years visit to the forum area has a new feel to it. A feel that has not existed for 15 years. In an effort to accomodate Japanese tourists who were annoyed at the small dust whirlwinds that could be whipped up by the afternoon breezes in the forum, the SAP, 15 years ago fenced off the forum space and planted grass. This forced tourists into the outside walkways around the forum and some luxurious grass was grown and stopping those dust whirl winds. This year, as part of an attempt to reinvigorate the scavi, the fence has been removed and the space returned to the people. The forum area is again how the Roman's intended. Slowly the grass that remains is disappearing and marble paving stones that still exist can be seen.

The oldest sanctuary/ religious space the Romans found in Pompeii was that of the Sanctuary of Apollo. Southern Italy was a part of the Greek colonial region known as Magna Graecia and Hellenistic culture had also heavily influenced some of the Italic cultures such as the Etruscans. The sanctuary was located in the oldest part of the city next to the central "forum" space. The Romans respected the religious space adding an alter in the temple area. Roman religious influence was also quickly made part of the city with the old Temple of Zeus reincarnated as the Temple to the Capitoline Triad; Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, and sat at the head of the newly restructured Roman forum area.

The Temple of Vespasian (probably earlier dedicated to Augustus) also became an important religious space within the forum.

It seems every Roman city, including Pompeii, needs to be a little Rome with a little Roman forum.
Frank Brown, architect and historian, was quoted by Dobbins as saying that the architecture of the Romans is the art of shaping space around ritual; religious (the Gods), the community and the family. All roman archiecture can be viewed in this way.

Go away now and find a map of the Roman forum. Label or become familiar with the space/ structures and their function. The forum is the civic, religious and economic centre of the city. It also supported social gatherings and events.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Field Journal Week One Pre-amble

Hi all.
After sitting here trying to overcome poor internet connection and 30+ degree heat I have decided that apart from posting various discussion starters or activities I will also post a more detailed journal of both week 1 and week 2's activities. In that I will include the discussion starters etc for those students and teachers following the blog. I will also include my "Ampitheatre" lecture given to the Pompeii Food and Drink team on site last Friday (now I have to put my notes together in some sort of order). My other hassle is trying to convert photos taken in RAW to JPG to place in here.
The weather in Pompeii so far has been interesting. Week 1 was rather mild and cool for Pompeii at this time of year and a dip in the hotel pool was quite chilly for a few days. However week 2 changed all that and the usual 30+ degree temperatures have come back with a vengeance making work hot and sticky from the early morning outset.
Again I load up each morning with sunscrean and plenty of water, a major necessity on an archaeological project in hot conditions. I already can tell that week 3 will continue with the hot temperatures.
The team has been a little unsettled this season with many changes of volunteer team members who are here for one week or two rather than the full 3 week season. This has allowed for interaction with more people and that is great although orientating them for work has been tougher. I guess on the upside was the fact that I was asked to take a staff position in week 1 of the season. I hope to have a chance to lead part of the team again in the future, as it felt good to have been given more responsibility within the project and the thought that the Project directors, in particular Dr Betty Jo Mayeske, had confidence to ask me was wonderful.
As I write this introduction for this field season we are getting ready for new team arrivals ahead of our team meetings this afternoon that begin the 3rd and final week here. Lunch will again no doubt be at the Little Paradise within the scavi gates...they have nice panini and refreshing granita's. Time for lunch and a swim and I will begin posting the Week 1 journal this afternoon.