Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, Professor of Roman Studies at the University of Cambridge, gave the fourth lecture in the research seminar series Pompeii: The Present and Future of Vesuvian Research with a paper entitled ‘Herculaneum: Can we save the sites?’
Professor Wallace-Hadrill is the director of the Herculaneum Conservation Project and former director of the British School at Rome. He is primarily a social and cultural historian who has published key texts on Rome – Rome’s Cultural Revolution, Cambridge University Press (2008) – and Pompeii and Herculaneum – Houses and Society in Pompeii and Herculaneum, Princeton University Press (1994) for which he won an award from the Archaeological Institute of America. His work with the Packard Humanities Institute in Herculaneum has focused on preservation and conservation of the site and serves as a model for future efforts in the Vesuvian area.
He began his paper with a discussion of the long history of the excavation of both Pompeii and Herculaneum,and many of the issues encountered by past archaeologists in dealing with the destruction of archaeology and need for conservation. Elucidating on many of these issues still felt today, Wallace-Hadrill illustrated his point with details of his own work with Professor Michael Fulford at the University of Reading in the House of Amarantus (I.9.12).
Turning to Herculaneum, the remainder of the paper focused on the work of the Herculaneum Conservation Project with support from the Packard Humanities Institute. The premise behind this work is that the way to save the Vesuvian sites from further decay is to combine the efforts of archaeologists, conservators, engineers, and other specialists working together in order to halt (or at least slow down) the degradation of the ruins. Some of their activities are relatively simple in concept – such as getting the city’s ancient drainage system working again – but more often their work involves looking at connected systems of prevention – such as solving the damp problem in the neighbouring house in order to save the mosaic in the House of Neptune. Wallace-Hadrill’s final example of the kind of collaborative work he espouses concerned the House of the Telephus Relief. The desire to protect marble embellishments on an upper storey of the house led to the discovery of the remains of the original timber roof, and its eventual reconstruction.
The work in this house is a testament to the method’s adopted by the Herculaneum Conservation Project, Wallace-Hadrill, and the Packard Institute, and certainly provide a convincing argument for future work in the Vesuvian region.