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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs