Depressing news from Herculaneum. The staff shortages are starting to bite. Visitors have given up seeing the Suburban Baths and even the boat museum, but the whole site was closed on Monday:
The ancient site of Herculaneum near Pompeii in southern Italy was shut to the public Monday afternoon because of a staff shortage that officials blamed on understaffing. The Superintendent for Cultural Heritage responsible for the sites at Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabia said in a statement that the closure "highlights the critical situation...at Mt. Vesuvius archaeological sites".
The full story from the Gazetta del Sud. There is also a heartfelt op-ed piece in Il Mattino:
“Ercolano sta ancora in piedi, così come Pompei, perché è lo spirito santo che lo vuole”. Queste le amare parole di alcuni addetti ai lavori del sito vesuviano mentre raccontano di mancanza di personale sufficiente a sorvegliare pochi ma significativi luoghi “simbolo” dell’area archeologica, oggi off-limits per i molti turisti che arrivano.
You can read it here. It is accompanied by a good video piece.
Pliny is all well and good, but I confess that I have always found it difficult to visualise what it must have been like to watch Vesuvius erupt. There are, of course, the news reports of Vesuvius in 1944 (this Pathé report is splendid) but the fact that it is in black and white distances.
The current eruption of Calbuco in southern Chile brings it home rather forcefully. The photographs in this Independent report show exactly what a blanket of ash looks like: the boat half buried in the town of Ensenada (Reuters) is reminiscent of the boat found in Herculaneum, and it is not difficult to look at the buried entrance of a house in Puerto Varas (AP) and see Pompeii. And any doubts about Pliny's description of an umbrella pine are dashed by the images in this CNN report.
There has been a great deal of excitement about the news yesterday that a new technique might help scholars reads the carbonised scrolls from the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum. I thought it worthwhile pulling together the better articles.
The article with the nuts and bolts of the research is "Revealing letters in rolled Herculaneum papyri by X-ray phase-contrast imaging" in Nature Communications.
It is worth flagging up this article mentioned by the always-brilliant Blogging Pompeii about the wooden boat found on the shore of Herculaneum. It must be one of the most ill-fated ships ever. It appears not to have been seaworthy at the time of the eruption of Vesuvius in AD79 and since its discovery has been sadly neglected in a beautiful, yet closed museum (a rival for the Museum für Antike Schiffahrt des RGZM, Mainz), and distinctly under-published. The blog post is here and the article itself is here. Pictures below are from my recent trip.
Apologies that posts have been thin on the ground recently, but those who follow me on Twitter will have seen a number of posts recently from Herculaneum, the city destroyed by Vesuvius in AD79. I was fortunate enough to be there to film an episode of Mummies Alive with the brilliant Mick Grogan of Saloon Media for History/Smithsonian/Yesterday and ZDF. The episode is focused on the remains of the soldier/sailor found just in front of the boat sheds on what was the shoreline by the ancient city. Photos by co-presenter, the geologist Dougal Jerram.