At least ten unexploded bombs are hidden somewhere deep in the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii. They are leftovers from a 1943 allied air force raid that dropped 165 bombs in the area. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Pompeii attracts more than 2.5 million visitors annually. From The Guardian:
“Ninety-six bombs were located and deactivated,” the Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano reported. “The other bombs ended up in an area of the site that has not yet been excavated. Many of them were defused or had already exploded. But at least 10 of those explosives are still there.”
Of the 66 hectares (163 acres) of the archaeological area, only 44 have been excavated. At least 10 unexploded bombs are yet to be found in the 22 remaining hectares, according to the investigation.
The Archaeological Museum of Pompeii said: “There is no risk for visitors. The site has regularly drawn up the reclamation project, which is carried out by the military. Area reclamation was carried out per metre.”
But Il Fatto said there was no sign of official documents for the location of at least 10 bombs...
According to statistics from the Italian defence ministry, thousands of second world war bombs are defused in the country every year.
image: Mark Vuaran (CC)
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Every year, visitors to Rome's famed Trevi Fountain toss in more than $1.7 million in coins. Historically, the Catholic charity Caritas has taken that money to help poor people. Now though, Rome mayor Virginia Raggi wants the cash for repairs to the city's infrastructure. From the BBC News:
We did not foresee this outcome," Caritas director Father Benoni Ambarus told Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops' conference. "I still hope it will not be final."
The newspaper ran a scathing article on the move in its Saturday edition, headlined "Money taken from the poorest".
City councillors have approved the change and it is due to take place in April.
Above, the classic Trevi Fountain scene from Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960), featuring Anita Ekberg. Read the rest
Thousands of years ago in Hierapolis (now Turkey), tourists visited a temple named Plutonium built at a cave thought to be a gateway to the underworld. Magically, large and small animals would drop dead at the entrance to the cave while priest somehow survived. This isn't legend, it's reality. And now scientists have determined why. From CNN:
Research published by the journal of Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences in February shows that a fissure in the earth's surface, deep beneath the site, emits carbon dioxide at concentrations so high it can be deadly.
Using a portable gas analyzer, Hardy Pfanz and his team of volcanologists found CO2 at levels ranging from 4-53% at the mouth of the cave, and as high as 91% inside -- more than enough to kill living organisms...
Pfanz's research adds another possibility: the fact that the animals and priests are different heights. CO2 is a heavier than oxygen, therefore it settles lower, forming a toxic gas lake above the ground. "The nostrils of the animals were way in the gas lake," he says, whereas the priests stood taller, above the gas lake.
Above: digital rendering of the temple
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Walks in Rome is an interactive map project that updates and modernizies a famous 1870 guidebook of Rome by August Hare. Read the rest
Trump launched his campaign in front of an "audience" of actors paid $50/each to wear campaign shirts and cheer wildly, and he's brought his paid cheering section with him into the presidency, bringing along staffers to applaud at key moments during his press conferences and other appearances. Read the rest
The Cornaro Chapel at the Santa Maria della Vittoria church in Rome sports many beautiful works of art, but I'm especially taken by the skeletal figure set into the floor tiles, whose upraised arms seem ready to snatch sinners into the underworld. The photo above was taken by Chris and memorialized in a fabulous post on Roman Patina, which also includes photos of many of the other works in the chapel.
Cornaro Chapel, Santa Maria della Vittoria
(via Kadrey) Read the rest
Here's John E. Hill's translation of "The Peoples of the West," Yu Huan's third century account of ancient Rome. Of significant interest is the list of items the Roman Emperor has in plenty, which includes "divine tortoises" "poison-avoiding rats" and many other wonders. Read the rest
The Italian scientific community was stunned when Italian scientists, seismologists, were recently sentenced to years of prison for manslaughter, for failing to predict the lethal earthquake in Aquila in 2009. Other scientists have resigned to their jobs in protest, and even some relatives of the victims condemned the sentence as ridiculous.
Perhaps you will enjoy this in-depth analysis of the history of Roman charioteers, their sport, and their role in ancient Roman society. I haven't had a chance to read through this whole thing yet (because, you know, I have to work) but what I have read is fascinating. Be sure to check out the Appendix, which has a translation of a Roman account of a chariot race — so, basically, ancient ESPN play-by-play. (Via Dr. Hypercube) Read the rest
Phillip Pullella writes: "Roman centurions, complete with red skirts, tunics, armor, swords and feathered helmets, fought in front of the Colosseum. But this time it was with a modern enemy - Rome's city police. The police arrived at the ancient amphitheatre to enforce an eviction notice for the men, who ask for money to have their picture taken by tourists." [Photo: Tony Gentile / Reuters] Read the rest
Photo: La Repubblica, Italy
That is the graffiti in one of the destroyed streets in this Saturday's "indignati" demonstration. It ended in violence against the police, city security, and last but not least the pacifist organizers of the manifestation, in tune with the world wide movements OCCUPY.
The graffiti sounds like some epic motto of ancient Rome when power struggles burned palaces, libraries, and streets.
Roman life may not be too different after all, except that 2000 years later, we somehow believe that those conflicts should be resolved without arson. Maybe we are wrong. Maybe the fact that people are organized using web networks does not free them from timeless forms of treachery and palace intrigue, or the manipulation and destruction of good political intent.
Anyway, after the mayhem, the search was on for the hooded arsonists, organized through the Internet and through private video shots by participants.
Italy remembers very well the violent "Years of Lead" (late 60's to early 80's), when red and black terrorists planted bombs in public places, blasting innocent citizens in the name of their distorted concept of supreme justice. For years they rampaged beyond the reach of police, courts and other institutions.
Even today, after many years, some cases of public terrorism have not been resolved. Books have been written by important authors to explain the supposedly important difference between a red and a black bomb detonated in public. The Nobel prize authors Dario Fo wrote a play where he showed how easily the police could frame anarchists for terrorism, killing them by legal means. Read the rest
Delfina Delettrez, a designer in Rome, made this beautiful, polished skeletal bracelet (though I couldn't locate it at her site, which autoplays music) (be warned).
Delfina Delettrez Read the rest
A UNC team has written an engine that scours Flickr for photos of a city, figures out which ones are images of the same place, analyzes them, and uses the results to build amazingly detailed 3D models -- all in less than a day, using a single PC.
Flickr Hack Makes 3D Model of Any City in a Day
(Thanks, MooseHP, via Submitterator) Read the rest
The current amount of importance placed on "originality" is a fairly recent phenomenon which I will discuss at some point. Back in the day, by which I mean Roman antiquity, imitation was indeed the sincerest form of flattery. Thank goodness, too. Because the Romans admired the Greek aesthetic, talented artists spent a great deal of time creating hand-made replicas of notable Greek art, particularly sculpture. In some cases, the originals are now lost to time, and the only reason we know what they look like is because of the talented copyists of old.
Perhaps the best-known example is the Diskobolos by Myron. The bronze original was remarkable enough to be discussed by a number of ancient playwrights and historians who saw it first-hand, but what a shame it would be if their descriptions were all we had to go by.
Image: scaled bronze replica of Myron's Discobolos photographed by MatthiasKabel (via Wikimedia Commons) Read the rest