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Herculaneum guard rails stolen

Theft after Pompeii frescoes stolen

20 March, 16:00
Herculaneum guard rails stolen (ANSA) - Ercolano, March 20 - Guard rails at the ancient Roman city of Herculaneum near Naples have been stolen, police said Thursday.

They said the theft of the copper-plated iron rails, along a walkway over the site, took place earlier this week.

Herculaneum, a onetime seaside resort, is not as famous as its once-bustling commercial neighbour Pompeii, buried in the same eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, but is unique because wood, cloth and papyrus were preserved - as well as excrement that provided rare evidence of the Roman diet.

It is still being excavated, and shows more promise than Pompeii of yielding treasures including lost literary classics.

Herculaneum gained equal footing with Pompeii at a sold-out show at the British Museum last year.

Pompeii lost all its organic material because it was covered in scalding ash while Herculaneum was hit by a scalding blast of heat that left fabric and skeletons intact.

Herculaneum is seen as recording a more refined lifestyle and culture than the rougher and bawdier Pompeii but Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, an expert on the smaller town, reckons that it could turn out to be "just as big a sin city, if a brothel is found".

Wallace-Hadrill has led a project to save Herculaneum, which until 15 years ago was heading for ruin.

The ancient resort has generally been free of the depredations that have sometimes hit Pompeii, the world's largest open-air museum.

Two frescoes were taken from the larger site earlier this month, one of which was mysteriously returned.