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'Live excavation' at Pompeii

Work on House of Chaste Lovers open to public

01 February, 13:31
'Live excavation' at Pompeii (ANSA) - Pompeii, February 1 - Visitors to the archaeological site of Pompeii will soon get the chance to observe the complex excavation process involved as it happens.

Excavation and restoration work at the House of the Chaste Lovers, which resumed a few months ago following ten years of neglect, will open to the public from the start of February.

Visitors will be allowed to enter sections of the building and watch archaeologists at work, gaining a deeper understanding of the effort involved in bringing 2,000-year-old remains to light. ''This is a project of immense importance to us,'' said Pompeii's emergency commissioner Marcello Fiori, recalling it was a priority on his works programme, approved by the culture ministry in November. ''These 'open-door' excavations will greatly enrich the opportunities provided by Pompeii. ''They will provide visitors with a different kind of experience, in which they have the chance to observe the fascinating work of archaeologists in action, as well as seeing recently unearthed items in situ''. The site will be protected from damage by glass screens. Interior panels will provide visitors with practical information, while technology will offer a virtual reconstruction of the premises as they probably looked prior to their destruction.

Last week, reports appeared in some newspapers that the House of Chaste Lovers had been seriously damaged after a crane collapsed on top of the site but Pompeii Excavations Director Antonio Varone dismissed these claims. Accusing the media of ''alarmism'', he explained that there had been a ''small landslip that caused no significant damage''.

''Heavy rains led to earth movements in the insula (apartment block) next to that of the House of Chaste Lovers,'' he said.

''This caused the collapse of several meters of the boundary wall, which however contained no frescoes''. The House of the Chaste Lovers takes its name from its elaborate interior wall paintings showing lovers during a feast.

The premises were made up of living quarters and a small bakery opening directly on to the street where the public could buy bread. The bakery contained a large oven with millstones, while archaeologists have discovered the remains of mules, used to transport grain, in a stable at the back of the premises opening onto an alleyway.

Experts have already started reconstructing the garden space, using holes left by the reed markers that once surrounded it. The most recent finds include a large cistern, used to provide water to the bakery, and the remains of building materials, which archaeologists believe were being used to repair damage to the premises caused by a small earthquake not long before Vesuvius erupted. Paint pots, a small furnace, a compass and partially completed wall sketches indicate that the living quarters were also being redecorated at the time of the eruption. ''All this shows again how Pompeian society was lively and active at the time of the disaster,'' concluded Varone.

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