Pompeii’s Collapsing Archaeological Heritage

second building collapse at Pompeii prompts inquiries as to the state of Italy’s cultural and archaeological management. Earlier this week, a portion of the garden wall at the House of the Moralist unexpectedly fell down at the UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to Antonio Varone, Pompeii’s director of excavations, the two building apartment was otherwise in no danger. This recent catastrophe occurred just three weeks after archaeological officials reported the collapse of a 2,000-year-old stone house at the ill-fated ancient city. The house, known in Latin as Schola Armaturarum, served as a residence and training ground for gladiators waiting to fight in the arena. Today, over twenty centuries later, both of these architectural heritage landmarks lay in rubble.

The collapsed House of the Moralist (Photo: AP)

November’s unfortunate events likely indicate that decades of poor archaeological management at Pompeii and other sites have finally taken their toll. Hundreds of archaeological sites (and thousands of them across the Mediterranean) have suffered similarly to Pompeii: from looting to funding shortages to utter neglect. It has been a problem plaguing culture-rich source nations like Italy for too long.

Currently, the Italian government is undergoing a major shake up in the administration of its cultural resources. Culture Minister Sandro Bondi is expected to receive a vote of no confidence from political opponents. And now, more than ever, Italian and foreign archaeologists are uttering their last goodbyes to cultural treasures from ancient Rome. It appears someone will soon be losing a job — but who? The politician charged with a 1.7 billion Euro budget for heritage conservation? The archaeologist whose career depends on non-renewable material cultural resources for research?

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