Archaeologist Francesco Muscolino discusses working on the Roman remains of Pompeii, what’s next for the dig and how new technology is transforming our understanding of this once lost city.
Pompeii is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. How did you find yourself working there?
I am an archaeological officer at the Italian Ministry of Culture. Pompeii is, of course, a desirable working place for all archaeologist, but I arrived here almost by chance. After a long period in northern Italy, I answered a call for archaeologists needed by the Grande Progetto Pompei. After, I asked to be stabilised in the staff of the Parco Archeologico di Pompei.
How does working at Pompeii compare to being an archaeologist at other sites?
It is very gratifying, because you have a lot of things to do and a very varied job. Of course, you have many responsibilities, because Pompeii is one of the most visited archaeological areas in the world, and each imperfection or problem can be seen by everyone.
This excavation has been called the biggest postwar excavation in Europe. How far do you agree with this statement?
This excavation is undoubtedly the biggest archaeological excavation in Pompeii in the last 40 to 50 years. By continuing to dig, we can enrich and broaden the details of our knowledge of Roman society in the last year before the eruption.
In articles it’s said that you’re using much more modern archaeological methods than previous excavations at Pompeii. Can you detail what these are and how they’ll help to find different things?
The team that is working at Pompeii is multidisciplinary, because it is composed of archaeologists, architects, engineers, archaeobotanists, archaeolozologists, physical anthropologists, volcanologists and geologists. Each of the professionals can rely on the more updated technologies of their specific fields.
Is there any chance of finding anything from earlier periods (like Etruscans or the Samnites) during the excavations?
The ongoing excavations will discover mainly the last phase of the city, i.e. the Roman phase; evidences of earlier periods can be found if it is decided that we will dig below the Roman layers, but this, for the moment, in not part of the project.
What has been your favourite discovery so far in the dig, or is there one that you think is the most important?
My favourite discovery, and one of the most important, is the House of Jupiter in Regio V. It has amazing frescoes and precious mosaics that give us more of an insight into life in Pompeii. There have also been many unexpected discoveries in the ongoing excavations: among them, in particular, the balconies in a fairly good status of preservation, and mosaics and frescoes of outstanding quality.
Can visitors to Pompeii see the excavations taking place, or are the digs taking place in a different area?
The digs take place within the ancient city walls, in Regio V of the city. Visitors can see the excavations from outside but due to the safety rules, the site usually cannot be visited. However, Pompeii’s social media sites are regularly updated so that everyone has the chance to see what is being uncovered.
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