Vivid frescoes and never-before-seen inscriptions were among the treasures unearthed in the massive years-long restoration of the world-famous archeological site in southern Italy.
The painstaking project, which came to a close on Tuesday, enlisted teams of archaeologists, architects, engineers, geologists and anthropologists and cost $113 million (105 million euros), largely covered by the European Union.
Questa mattina a Pompei, alla presenza del Ministro per i beni e le attività culturali e per il turismo, Dario Franceschini, c'è stata la conferenza stampa per la riapertura al pubblico di tre importanti domus, Casa degli Amanti, Casa del Frutteto e Casa della Nave Europa, e la conclusione della messa in sicurezza delle Regiones I, II e III. . . . This morning in Pompeii, with the presence of the Minister for Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, Dario Franceschini, the reopening of three important domus, Casa degli Amanti, Casa del Frutteto and Casa della Nave Europa, and the conclusion of the safety of the excavations (Regiones I, II e III). @mibact @dariofrances
The army of workers reinforced walls, repaired collapsing structures and excavated untouched areas of the sprawling site, Italy's second most visited tourist destination after Rome's Colosseum.
New discoveries were made too, in areas of the ruins not yet explored by modern-day archaeologists at the site – frequently pillaged for jewels and artefacts over the centuries, and still plagued by theft and vandalism today.
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“When you excavate in Pompeii there are always surprises,” the site's general director Massimo Osanna told reporters on Tuesday.
Some of the most famous discoveries made at the site recently include:
The grisly gladiator fresco
Archeologists discovered in October a vivid fresco depicting an armour-clad gladiator standing victorious as his wounded opponent gushes blood, painted in a tavern believed to have housed the fighters as well as prostitutes.
The inscription that changed history
In 2018, an inscription was uncovered that proves the city near Naples was destroyed after October 17, 79 AD, and not on August 24 as previously believed.
The decapitated man
The house of lovers
One of the most impressive buildings restored and reopened to viisiitors during the works is the “Casa degli Amanti” or House of Lovers, a two-storey noble home in the complex that was closed for repair after an earthquake in 1980.
The “erotic” fresco of Leda and the swan
Archaeologists unearthed a sensual fresco depicting the Ancient Greek myth of Leda and the Swan on a bedroom wall in Pompeii.
Photo: Pompeii Archaeological Park/Italian Culture Ministry
Visitors can now see the never-completed thermal baths, designed to be the jewel of Pompeii but destroyed by a volcanic eruption before they could be completed.
The project was initiated after UNESCO warned in 2013 it could strip the site of its World Heritage status after a series of collapses blamed on lax maintenance and bad weather.
But the project has breathed new life into the historic site.
On Tuesday, workers carefully restored ancient frescoes, hues dulled by years of dirt and calcifications, and cleaned off centuries-old tile floors.
“You have to be careful not to take off too much,” explained Aldo Guida, who was scratching at the surface of the oxblood walls of the “House of Lovers”.
“Little by little,” he added, with a smile.
The giant eruption of Mount Vesuvius devastated the ancient Roman city of Pompeii nearly 2,000 years ago, covering everything in its path with volcanic ash.
That sediment helped to preserve many buildings almost in their original state, as well as the curled-up corpses of Vesuvius' victims.
Some of the site has been closed to the public during the restoration, including several “domus” – family residences for the upper classes – that have been since reopened to the public.
The House of Orchards domus features intricately detailed frescoes of fruit trees and birds, while the House of the Ship Europa boasts a sketch of a large merchant ship.
Though the bulk of the restoration work is now complete, director Osanna said running repairs will never truly be over.
“It's a city in ruins,” he said. “The attention we pay to it must never stop.”