Archaeological Site of Herculaneum

Visit archaeological Site of Herculaneum

Herculaneum was originally discovered when a well was being dug in the early 18th Century at a depth of 50–60 feet below the modern surface. Initially a series of ‘robber’ shafts and tunnels were dug to strip the site of any saleable valuables.

However, between 1749 to 1765 Herculaneum was explored on a more scientific basis for the Bourbon Kings of Naples and the Two Sicilies, initially under the supervision of Rocco Gioacchino Alcubierre and then his assistant Carlo Weber.

A basic plan of the town was mapped out and much of the portable remains removed but eventually these tunnels collapsed and were closed down.

The modern towns of Resina and Portici grew up over the site and knowledge of where the entrances to the tunnels were was lost to the scientific community.

In the 20th Century, archaeological excavations re-commenced on a more modern and scientific basis fully uncovering a small section of the town but it was found that the earlier tunnelling had damaged the structure of much of the surviving buildings.

The site is also suffering from exposure to the elements and the periodic earth tremors, so there is a constant battle to try and preserve the remains.

Recent archaeological work at the site has rediscovered potentially one of the greatest treasure houses of contemporary Roman knowledge. The Villa of the Papyri was initially thought to contain unreadable charred scrolls, fused into solid lumps when it was originally excavated in the 18th Century. It was found that using various techniques some of the scrolls could be eased open and at least part of their contents read.

Today Herculaneum, together with Pompeii, is one of the most famous and important archaeological sites of the world.

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