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Calls for ancient artifacts to be put on public display

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(21 Apr 2017) LEADINThere's a campaign for artifacts from the ancient Roman city of Herculaneum to be put on public display, instead of being locked away in a storeroom. The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD killed thousands of people in the city and neighbouring Pompeii. Ninety years ago archaeologists in Herculaneum discovered preserved wooden furniture revealing extraordinary tales about daily life in Roman times.STORYLINEThe ancient town of Herculaneum sits in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. Herculaneum and nearby Pompeii were destroyed in the dramatic eruption of 79AD that killed an estimated 20,000 people. The layers of volcanic ash preserved the sites for centuries, providing precious information on domestic life in the ancient world.Tourists visit Herculaneum and Pompeii in their thousands, hoping for a glimpse into a world long gone. A key unlocks a room in Herculaneum where visitors are not allowed to enter, but it hides even more secrets of life in the Roman Empire. A baby cradle, a bed frame, stalls; all finely decorated and strikingly similar to furniture of modern homes. Their blackened, carbonized wood reveals their origin: they belong to homes in Herculaneum at the time the city was obliterated by Vesuvius. Frozen in time and buried for centuries, they offer an intimate picture of domestic comfort in Imperial Rome.The furniture pieces were discovered 90 years ago, in the 1920's, by Italian archaeologist Amedeo Maiuri, who for decades conducted extensive excavations in Herculaneum and Pompeii. Francesco Sirano is the newly-appointed director of the Herculaneum Archaeological Park. "They're mainly wooden artifacts, exceptionally well preserved; they were discovered during digs that started in the 1920's. They've undergone a unique carbonization process: they weren't burned but they've almost turned into minerals. They've somehow been mineralized. They're being kept here under controlled climatic conditions," Sirano explains.The collection includes metal statuettes dedicated to household gods as well as food remains such as lentils and carbonized onions. There's a reason these everyday objects have been found in Herculaneum and not in Pompeii. The eruption covered Pompeii with a layer of ashes and pebbles with a maximum depth of 10 metres. Herculaneum was shrouded by a much thicker blanket of volcanic material with a depth ranging from 15 metres (49 feet) to 25 metres (82 feet). Over the centuries, this rock solid mantle has almost perfectly preserved wooden objects, food and artifacts in Herculaneum, Sirano explains. "They're so well preserved because of the circumstances of the destruction: the famous blazing cloud, the pyroclastic flow that fell over the city (of Herculaneum) during the first night of (Mount Vesuvius') eruption have sealed the state and conditions of these materials," the director says. Domenico Camardo is the Chief Archaeologist of the Herculaneum Conservation Project (HCP). Camardo says the wooden furniture offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to peek through the life of ancient Romans: "Herculaneum is one of the most extraordinary places for this. It allows us to trace back what daily life was like at the time. Thanks to the particular burial here many furniture pieces that were in Herculaneum homes (in Roman times) have come to us intact. Today this allows us to know how they (Romans) were furnishing their homes. Contrary to Pompeii, here we don't have empty homes with exquisite frescoes and mosaics; here we also have artifacts from the homes' interiors."Camardo calls the cradle "one of the most emotional objects found" at the site. Irlando says that many museums around the world would love to exhibit the furniture. You can license this story through AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/metadata/you... Find out more about AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/HowWeWork


AP Archive apus075736 ff4e5bcd7038405b6e3a5bf5d8b7ecec HZ Italy Herculaneum Italy Western Europe Environment and nature Lifestyle Science General news
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