13 November 2010

"Archaeologists with Computers"

I am an archaeologist and my husband is a game developer/animated film producer. I love it when our fields collide (at 1:20):



But really, who should be more insulted here: the archaeologists or the game developers?? Or maybe, just maybe, she is making a critical observation that archaeologists, like game developers, envision and create our own perceived realities that are then consumed by the wider public. For this random Russian lady, history is but an imagined community in which we all take part.

Or she just thinks we are all a bunch of geeks. She wouldn't be that far from the truth!

Crumbling Pompeii

It still amazes me how (seemingly) little attention is paid to the architectural preservation of Pompeii, arguably one of the most popular tourist sites in Italy and perhaps the world. Last Saturday this observation was made tangible by the collapse of one of the buildings: the "House of the Gladiator" along the famous ancient city's main thoroughfare. As the Huff Post reports:
"The office of Pompeii's archaeological superintendent said the collapse occurred Saturday at around 6 a.m. (0500 GMT). Attendants opening the site saw the collapse about an hour later.
The house, called by the Latin name "Schola Armaturarum Juventis Pompeiani," was closed to the public, and could only be seen from the outside, and it was not considered at risk of collapse, officials said.
There was no official word on possible causes. News reports said water infiltration following heavy rains in the past days might be the cause.
The 430-square-foot (40-square-meter) space was used by gladiators to train before going to fight in a nearby amphitheater, as well as by other athletes. It was also a storehouse for weapons and armor."
CNN International is also reporting the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano as saying, "We should all feel shame for what happened." Shame, yes, but who is to blame? Archaeologists and cultural heritage preservations who are the acting stewards of the site? Local and federal governments who allocate monies so said archaeologists can do the work? According to the Irish Times, it is not specific people but policies to blame where high profile projects with short-term gains (in publicity, tourist money, etc.) are favored over long-term stability projects that are less glamorous, but better for the ancient city overall.

(Former) House of the Gladiator (Photo credit: Ciro De Luca/Reuters)

Perhaps this focus of energy and resources toward high profile projects accounts for a general lack of routine maintenance at Pompeii. For example, clogged drains seem to have contributed most to this latest collapse. Does there need to be a grassroots movement of local volunteers to help with the grounds cleaning? You would need a small army in order to cover the city completely, but it could be done.
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