From a hotly-debated eruption date to the grisly fates of citizens, Pompeii is telling new tales
By Dr Eireann Marshall, expert guide lecturer for Andante Travels
It’s hard to forget how depressing Pompeii and Herculaneum were just a short while ago. I remember taking a group around Pompeii in 2010, shortly after the Schola Armaturarum collapsed, when that part of the Via dell’Abbondanza was closed off, and noting how many guests in the group – like many others after them – were disappointed by Pompeii because most of the houses were shut, and the ones that were open looked dingy. Indeed, at that time, only around 10 sites were open to the public and UNESCO had threatened to label the site as being in peril.
Then, with the ascension of Massimo Ossana as the General Director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii in 2014, and with the establishment of the Great Pompeii Project, which has invested around €160m in the site, it has turned around remarkably. Now sites, which I was once shown only because I knew the local staff, have opened to the public and a large excavation project has been launched. In fact, over the last couple of years, announcements of new discoveries in Pompeii have been appearing in the news so often that it has been hard to stay abreast of the situation. Throughout this time, I have kept up to speed by speaking to archaeologists working in the field, as well as to people working on the sites, from our local guides to the very active and capable Director of Herculaneum, Francesco Sirano. With this in mind, I thought I would spell out why I think there is no better time to visit the Bay of Naples than now – even if you’ve already been.
Discoveries from the excavations on Regio V: What we have learned Pompeii has been much in the news for the excavations taking place at Regio V, a 54-acre area in the northern part of the park. These excavations, the largest in Pompeii since the 1960s, are funded by the Great Pompeii Project and are being done to both secure the excavation fronts of the unexcavated parts of the city and to ensure that this area is properly drained. The focus of recent excavations has been in the area between the House of Lucretius Fronto and the House of the Silver Wedding. A staggering amount has been found so far, considering that these excavations are being carried out for maintenance purposes. Several houses have been excavated, including the House of Jupiter, the House of Leda and the Swan, the House of the Garden, and4/5 projecting balconies – not including the thermopolium (a shop selling hot food) and a shop/tavern. This has entailed the discovery of new frescoes, mosaics and artefacts. So, what have we learned from this?