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The Destructive Factors Impacting Pompeii and Herculaneum Today

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Pompeii and Herculaneum are located in the South of Naples on the Western Coast of Italy. They are two of the most astonishing historical sites in the world attracting approximately 2.6 million tourists per year. However with all this attention many destructive issues occurred including tourism “The sites are having difficulty managing the balance of need for research and tourist, conservation which the demands of tourism, which is the main form of revenue”, stealing /destroying the site and the effects of natural causes “The excavated sites at Pompeii and Herculaneum are still vast open-air museums, exposed to the forces of decay such as wind and water, which erode away the old cities”-1996 Andrew Wallace. Furthermore, in modern times many methods of conservation have been utilised to counter this destruction however, some of these destructive issues still remain.

Tourism has had a destructive effect on Pompeii and Herculaneum resulting in damage being caused. Furthermore, throughout the years of display, Pompeii’s and Herculaneum’s tourist levels had greatly increased-2 million tourists a year in 1998, 2.2 million in 2001, 2.5 million in 2005, Herculaneum receives 500,000. Moreover, with tourist levels constantly increasing many destructive complications started to occur. Additionally, there are no viewing or walking platforms resulting in damage being caused to paths and stepping stones (an example of this is the Pompeian forum and via dell abudanzza). Another problem affecting Pompeii and Herculaneum is the lack of facilities such as; toilets, food and garbage disposals. In addition, tourists that don’t have access to a garbage disposal might choose to dispose of it within the grounds Pompeii or Herculaneum. Over time this pollution builds up and starts to impact the ancient site by corroding and wearing it down. Furthermore, the management of Pompeii itself is a problem as the wrong areas are not being addressed. “They identified emergencies that had nothing to do with the real problems of Pompeii” Circo Marino (union/custodian leader). As the wrong areas were being addressed other problems were exposed including no visitor checks, lack of guards, tourists could walk freely touching leaning and taking flash photography. “Ordinary maintenance and programmed conservation are not carried out at Pompeii. That is the problem” -Guzzo. Moreover, if no visitor checks occurred then the number of people within the site will be unknown. This could potentially lead to people hiding/staying within the sight and damaging/stealing form the sight. Furthermore, lack of guards (only 150) allows some areas of the sites unsupervised consequently resulting in the vandalising/stealing of the ancient sites. In addition, tourists have too much freedom resulting in the ability to touch, lean and take flash photographs of the ancient site. These factors slowly but surely wear down the ancient site therefore, over time destroying it. “The sites are having difficulty managing the balance of need for research and tourist, conservation which the demands of tourism” Andrew Wallace.

Destroying /Stealing has had a destructive effect on Pompeii and Herculaneum resulting in damage being caused. Moreover, during the many years that Pompeii and Herculaneum have been exhibited various parts of the site have been stolen, vandalised and even destroyed. People innocently think taking small pieces of tiling, mosaics and rocks from the site of Pompeii and Herculaneum has no affect. However, whilst doing so, the site’s originality and authenticity is being destroyed. In addition, from 1975 to 2000 approximately 600 items have been stolen to from both Herculaneum and Pompeii. Furthermore, Pompeii and Herculaneum have also been vandalised by people inscribing modern graffiti on the walls and stealing frescos-“It was reported recently that a fresco has been stolen from Pompeii”-the conservation. This destroys the uniqueness and dependability of the site as modern some of the writing will be unable to read and hard to interoperate. Additionally, parts of Pompeii and Herculaneum have been destroyed therefore, unfortunately leaving gaps within the site (House of the Chaste Lovers). In addition, The Maffia (Camorra) has gain access to many areas of Pompeii/Herculaneum such as the guards, conservation and preservations. An example of this is when two frescos were hacked off the wall from the House of the Chaste Lovers.  The minister of territorial cohesion Fabrizio Barca said Pompeii’s problems stem from its status as “one of the biggest and most important sites in the world, and its location in one of the areas with the highest concentration of organized crime in all of Europe”-author unknown. To prevent people from destroying/stealing parts of Pompeii and Herculaneum, new metal fencing went up along major streets at the site to prevent tourists/people from entering. This minimises the potential for people to steal or damage property within the two sites.

Natural causes have had a destructive effect on Pompeii and Herculaneum resulting in damage being caused. In addition, throughout the years of display, “The excavated sites at Pompeii and Herculaneum are still vast open-air museums, exposed to the forces of decay such as wind and water, which erode away the old cities.”-Andrew Wallace. Furthermore, natural cause such as vegetation has become a major issue in Pompeii and Herculaneum. Ivy, fennel, fig and valerian have naturally spread throughout the site causing cracks in roofs, walls, gaps in mosaic floors and the foundations of buildings (this is displayed in the Villa of the papyri). Moreover, another source causing natural damage to Pompeii and Herculaneum are animals. Hundreds of wild dogs live in Pompeii and Herculaneum causing damage to the roads and walls. Moreover, multiple procedures have been introduced to combat the natural causes that threaten Pompeii and Herculaneum. A program called adopt a dog was introduced in 2009 by Maria Rosaria Salvatore and is beginning to have a positive effect as it is decreasing the number of stray dogs within Pompeii and Herculaneum therefore minimising the amount of damage that is being caused. Also, approximate 400 pigeons nest in the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum. These pigeons severely impact the two sites as their droppings are highly acidic resulting in frescos being destroyed. There were also two Harris hawks released in 2005 to try to stop the pigeons from nesting therefore decreasing the amount of frescos being destroyed. Additionally, over the years weather has taken an immense toll on the condition of Pompeii and Herculaneum. From 1738, heavy rains (floods) and harsh winds have caused many building to collapse and walls to fall-“Pompeii has always been an emergency since it was first excavated in 1748, the current archaeological director of the site. The most recent crisis phase began in November 2010, when the so-called Schola Armaturarum, which housed an ancient military order, crumbled into the street after a period of torrential rain”- Grete Stefani. Furthermore, frequent earth tremors are a common problem to Pompeii and Herculaneum which cause cracks in monuments and the destruction of buildings. Also, sun light exposure is slowly but surely fading many frescos within Herculaneum and Pompeii. Top protect the frescos copies have been made encase they are one day fully faded from the exposed light (e.g. Alexander Mosaic).

In modern times many methods of conservation have been utilised to counter the destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum. These strategies have been implemented from through international projects. In addition, many local and international cooperation’s/projects have educated the public/made them aware of the destructive threats to Pompeii/Herculaneum, help preserve Pompeii/Herculaneum and even set up charity groups to support Pompeii/Herculaneum. Examples of these groups are Superintendents of Archaeology in Pompeii, Italia Nostra, Herculaneum Conservation Projects, British school of Archaeology at Rome, Anglo-American Project and the Philodemus Project.

To conclude, Pompeii and Herculaneum are two of the most remarkable historical sites in the world. Over the past years many destructive issues have occurred (tourism, damaging /stealing and natural causes) resulting in the sites being damaged. Although many of these issues have been addressed today Pompeii and Herculaneum would never have been in its original form that it once was. “It is much to be regretted that means could not be devised for their preservation on the precise spot at which they were originally found”-

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The Destructive Factors Impacting Pompeii And Herculaneum Today. (2021, October 25). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 27, 2022, from
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