News / Science & Technology

Satellites, Sensors to Halt Crumbling of Italy's Pompeii

A restorer works in the ancient Roman city Pompeii, which was buried in AD 79 by an eruption of the Vesuvius volcano, Feb. 6, 2013.
A restorer works in the ancient Roman city Pompeii, which was buried in AD 79 by an eruption of the Vesuvius volcano, Feb. 6, 2013.
Reuters
The ruins of ancient Pompeii will be monitored by satellites and sensors under an agreement with Italian defense and technology group Finmeccanica to try to stop the UNESCO world heritage site from crumbling.

The state-controlled group will help train staff and donate its technology for free for three years in an investment worth up to two million euros ($2.75 million), after which the equipment will be left to the restoration project.

Regular collapses of walls and houses in the treasured Roman town that was covered by ash in a volcanic eruption in 79 AD have caused an international outcry and increased pressure for an end to delays dogging a 105-million-euro restoration project part-funded by the European Union and launched last year.

Finmeccanica will train staff to use high-tech monitoring tools that should flag shifts in terrain in the 1,500 buildings of Pompeii, so that archaeologists can quickly intervene to prevent collapses.

Soil movements, a major risk to the ruins especially during bad weather, will be monitored through high-resolution images captured by the COSMO-SkyMed group of satellites, controlled by the Italian Space Agency, Finmeccanica said.

Technicians will build up a digital archive of the most important sites in Pompeii through hyperspectral imaging, which can capture the composition of different materials by measuring their electromagnetic radiation.

Site security will be able to access the information through a smartphone app, and vandalism or damage to the ruins will set off alarms.

Private Sponsors

The partnership with Finmeccanica is the latest of several examples in which private companies have stepped in to fund restorations of Italy's fabled cultural heritage to make up for a dearth of public funds.

Luxury shoemaker Tod's is helping to restore the Colosseum, jeweller Bulgari the Spanish Steps, and fashion house Fendi the Trevi Fountain - all in Rome.

"I invite other private groups to come forward and not use the excuse that there are too many bureaucratic hurdles [to sponsorship]," Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said on Thursday. "We are here, there are no more alibis."

Italy's most popular tourist attraction after the Colosseum and Palatine Hill, which
FILE- A damaged statue is seen in the Thermae Stabianae in Pompeii, Italy, March 8, 2012.FILE- A damaged statue is seen in the Thermae Stabianae in Pompeii, Italy, March 8, 2012.
x
FILE- A damaged statue is seen in the Thermae Stabianae in Pompeii, Italy, March 8, 2012.
FILE- A damaged statue is seen in the Thermae Stabianae in Pompeii, Italy, March 8, 2012.
attracted 2.5 million visitors in 2013, Pompeii was preserved by the eruption of Vesuvius almost 2,000 years ago and was rediscovered in the 18th century, but has become a symbol of decades of mismanagement of Italy's heritage.

Three walls and an arch supporting a temple crumbled last month. Faulty restoration work, especially following the Second World War, combined with weather, pollution, weed growth and visiting crowds, caused the city to decay, Finmeccanica said.

So far, 40 million euros of the 105 million euros available for the Great Pompeii Project have been allocated.

The restoration hit delays amid disagreement over who should be named to lead the works, and on Thursday Franceschini said that the project's deputy director, Fabrizio Magani, would be replaced. He had been named to the post in December.

($1 = 0.7263 Euros)

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs