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The Archaeological Site of Pompeii

History of the Archaeological Site 

Pompeii is located on a plateau formed by the Vesuvius volcano's lava flow. The city dominated the valley around the Sarno River, the delta of which hosted a busy port. 
Information about the origins of the city are uncertain. The oldest available traces date back to the 7th-6th Centuries BC, when the first tuff walls, called pappamonte, were built to enclose an area of 63.5 hectares. A mixed population of Etruscans, Greeks and other Italic peoples led to the city's development. 

At the end of the 5th Century BC, the Samnites descended from the mountains of Irpinia and Sannio, settled in the plain of the Campania Region (Campania means "fertile plain") and conquered the cities near to Vesuvius and the coast. They created an alliance, the Capital of which was Nucèria. During the Samnite period, the urbanization process enjoyed a great boost in ancient Pompeii: the construction of a new limestone fortification of the Sarno River, tracing a path similar to its predecessor, dates back to the 5th Cntury BC. 

With the conclusion of the 4th Century BC the Samnite tribes began to feel the pressure of a Rome that was spreading over Southern Italy, and that between 343 and 290 B.C. conquered all of Campania. Pompeii entered as a partner (ally) into the political organization of the Roman res publica. However, in 90-89 B.C., the city, along with other Italic peoples, rebelled, calling for social and political dignity equal to Rome. Pompeii was besieged by the troops of Publius Cornelius Sulla, and in 80 B.C. the city capitulated and became the Roman colony of Cornelia Veneria Pompeianorum. After becoming a colony, it was rebuilt and endowed with private and public buildings, especially during the rules of the Emperors Augustus and Tiberius, from 27 B.C. to 37 A.D. 

In 62 A.D. a violent earthquake struck the Vesuvius area. In Pompeii, the reconstruction began immediately, but it took an unusually-long time due the extent of the damage. Seventeen years later, on August 24, 79 A.D., the sudden eruption of Vesuvius buried Pompeii with ashes and lapillus. 

The buried city was rediscovered in the 16th Century, but it was only in 1748 that the exploration phase began, under the King of Naples Charles III of Bourbon. It continued systematically throughout the 9th Century up to the most recent excavations, restorations and enhancements of the ancient city, with the rediscovering of its exceptional architecture, sculptures, paintings and mosaics. 

The archaeological site of Pompeii spreads over 66 hectares, 49 of which have already been excavated. In 1858, director of the excavations Giuseppe Fiorelli had the idea of dividing the city into regions, or neighborhoods, and insulae, or blocks. The names of the houses were coined by the archaeologists over the centuries, under various criteria. 

History of the Excavations 

The excavations began in 1748, under King Charles of Bourbon, as a way of increasing the fame and prestige of his Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. 
The digging proceeded sporadically, without a well-defined plan, and only a few years later was the site actually identified as Pompeii. A part of the necropolis outside Porta Ercolano was dug up, together with the Temple of Isis and part of the theatres quarter. 
During the French occupation, in early 1800, activity expanded over the site, but gradually slowed again when the Bourbons were restored to throne. Works were concentrated on the area of the amphitheatre and the Forum, as well as around Porta Ercolano and the theatres district. The discovery of the House of the Faun, containing the large mosaic depicting Alexander the Great in Battle, caught the imagination of people all over Europe.

Following the Unification of Italy in 1861, the designation of Giuseppe Fiorelli as director marked a turning-point in the excavations process. Since then the site has been explored systematically, its different sections connected, and detailed records of the activities produced and maintained. The city's wall paintings have been left on site, rather than being detached and placed in a museum exhibit. Fiorelli also pioneered the practice of using plaster casts to reveal the silhouettes of some of the eruption's victims. 

From the early 20th Century, the excavations moved eastwards along the ancient town's principal streets, and more attention was paid to buildings' upper-floor remains. From 1924 to 1961, the excavations were supervised by Amedeo Maiuri, who oversaw a period of intense activity that included the discovery of prestigious buildings, such as the Villa of Mysteries; the complete recognition of the ancient town's perimeter; the excavation of most of Regions I and II and the necropolis of Porta Nocera; and the initiation of a methodical exploration of the layers below the 79 A.D. level, in order to bring to light the past of ancient Pompeii
In recent years, excavations have been scaled down so as to concentrate the limited resources available (not sufficient even to fulfill this goal) on restoring and maintaining the buildings which have already been exposed.