Archaeological site

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The ancient town of Herculaneum was destroyed and buried, together with Pompei, Oplontis, Stabiae and other small villages, by the eruption of Mount Veusvius in A.D. 79.  It completely disappeared under a thick layer of volcanic material. The town was only accidently discovered in 1709 when a few workers, digging a well, detected a wall which was later identified with the stage of the ancient theatre. Regular excavations started, later, under the patronage of Charles III of the Bourbon family, the monarch of the Kingdom of Naples. The king appointed engineer Karl Weber as director of the excavations. Numerous buildings and manufacts were uncovered and Karl Weber documented all of them, but this was not sufficient to prevent that most of the artifacts were removed by treasure hunters. In early eighteenth century, archeology was just about to become a science, so when the uncovering of Herculaneum was undertaken, the archaeologists were not yet prepared to face the problems related to the removal of the volcanic material and although many buildings were found still in good conditions, the conservation of the top floors proved to be very difficult so that many of them were lost for ever.  One of the most important and fascinating discoveries was that of the Villa of the Papyri, a superb suburban residence, where a large number of ancient papyri scrolls, written in Greek and Latin, were discovered together with marvellous bronzes and marble works. The ancient papyri, most of which dealing with the philosophical subjects of Epicurean inspiration, are still object of study and are preserved at the Archeological National Museum of Naples.

The excavations were discontinued and were alternatively abandoned and resumed for almost two hundred years because of the difficulties given by the compact mass of the pyroclastic material and the infiltration of water into the ruins. They were resumed in 1927 under the direction of Amedeo Maiuri and most of the public monuments of the old town were uncovered. The special condition under which Herculaneum was buried preserved most of the buildings and allowed the conservation of magnificent paintings, wooden furniture, pieces of cloth and splendid jewelleries which offer a detailed information about the life of the old inhabitants of the Naples coast. This information are very difficulty achieved in other centres of the ancient roman society. The excavations of Herculaneum, together with those of Pompei, had in fact, precipitated the modern science of archeology, and are still continuing but, although the ruins were declared a Unesco World Heritage Site, they are bound restricted Villa Favoritaby the presence of the inhabited dwellings of the present town. In 1981 the ancient beach was brought to light. Many human skeletons were found inside the fornices that had been built close to the ancient shoreline, suggesting that numerous inhabitants attempted to escape. Unfortunately they all perished because of the pyroclastic flow and the volcanic gases which covered the town.


After the eruption of 79 A. D. the memory of the existence of Herculaneum was lost for centuries. No one knows the date of the foundation of the new town of Resina, which was unknowingly built in the same place, on top of the remains of the buried town. We know for sure that in 121 A.D. the Roman emperor, Hadrian, ordered the reopening of the road from Naples to Salerno and many buildings were already present along that route. According to contemporary historians, during the sixth century a battle between gothic populations and locals took place in the hamlet of Resina. There is a written documentation, dating back to the year 1060, which reports about the Pugliano church being very famous for the preservation of two ancient Roman sarcophagi which are kept in one of its chapels. AmazzoneThe church, known as a Basilica, had been built in the village of Resina, which is then considered to be one of the oldest medieval hamlets in the Italian peninsula. Resina, which had to face numerous eruptions of the volcano Vesuvius, was also attacked and besieged by different populations and it became a dukedom during the Angevin domination. Its population had to pay an incredible amount of money to get freedom in 1699. During the eighteenth century, when the king of Naples decided to build his Royal Palace in the nearby town of Portici, a new era started for the resort town of Resina. Many beautiful villas where built along the so-called "Golden Mile" and Resina became one of the most famous vacation site in the bay of Naples. The area was known to be a healthy place and the king Ferdinand IV himself established his own dwelling into a villa which resembled his Austrian wife's house, the Schonbrun Palace in Vienna and this residence became Maria Carolina's favourite villa. Villa Favorita, together with other splendid villas, was used by many aristocrats and diplomats and soon became the most famous and enjoyable place for a splendid holiday. The town of Resina, thanks to its superb location in the middle of the bay of Naples, became one of the most famous destinations of the "Grand Tour". A funicular was built in the centre of the town , near the train station, in order to take tourists up on the slopes of the Volcano and Resina became very famous all over the world for its beautiful scenery. The two world wars caused the end of this golden age for the aristocrats of the area and the town returned to its normal life. In 1969 the Italian government decided to change the toponym Resina in that of Ercolano with a view to the glory of its ancient name.


For more detailed information please visit my site www.herculaneum.net/visitingHerculaneum.net


 To see photos of the ruins, please visit the following sites:

http://wings.buffalo.edu/AandL/Maecenas/italy_except_rome_and_sicily/herculaneum/section_contents.html

http://www.theplumber.com/pom.html

http://www.channel4.com/history/microsites/P/pompeii/programme.htm#herc

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/829

www.pompeiisites.org

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