In the area forthcoming the “Pavilion of the boat”, close to the ancient site of Herculaneum, it will be created the new Archeological Museum of Herculaneum. The design of the bulding was commissioned to the famous Italian Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano.
The museum will house the artifacts crammed in the deposits of Ercolano and some frescoes and statues that are in the deposits of the Naples National Archaeological Museum.
The funders of the new museum will be the members of the Packard Foundation, supported by David Woodley Packard, seventy years old, son of the founder of Hewlett-Packard, for years the archaeological funders.
According to the progect, the new structure will be a basement with a minimum impact on the landscape and it will be covered with a green roof, on the model of other interventions Piano as the California Academy of Sciences of San Francisco.
One building or two? A building was partially discovered in 1739 by Alcubierre. Described as a ‘temple’, it had semi-circular niches containing the well known frescoes of Thereus, Telephus, Chiron and Achilles and others. In Cochin and Bellicard’s book 1954 is a description of a building containing the frescoes and two equestrian statues. Cochin’s plan of the building, shown opposite, notes the location of the finds. Variously described as a temple, a basilica, and a forum, the building measured 68m by 40m and was placed on the north side of the Decumanus Maximus.
If this building, the source of these well known frescoes and equestrian statues, and the Basilica Noniana are one and the same, some obvious anomalies arise:
a) The location – on opposite sides of the Decumanus Maximus, this difference could be explained by the difficulty in locating the building due to the many twists and turns in the access tunnels.
b) The size – Cochin measured the building as 68m by 40m (larger, by the way than the Basilica in Pompeii) while the Basilica Noniana is less than half the size. Could Cochin’s measurements by out by a factor of two?
c) The orientation – Cochin placed the main entrance on the souhtwest side of the building, whereas the entrance to the Basilica Noniana is plainly on its northeast side, off the Decumanus Maximus.
Herculaneum was a prosperous resort town inhabited in summer by well-to-do Romans and their servants, in addition to the year-round resident.
When the Vesuiuv erupted in 79 A.D. they were all there for the season: aristocrats and slaves, young and old.
They fled the volcano’s eruption at the very last minute and were caugh on the beach by the flow of volcanic material.
Since few skeletons had ever been found in the town itself, historians long believed that the population had escaped the desctruction of the city.
It was a great surprise when the skeletons were accindentally found at the beach front of the adjacent chambers in the spring of 1982.
These skeletons are in good to excellent condition because they had remained in an environment of unchanging temperature and humidity, buried under 20 meters of volcanic material for some 1900 years.
The skeletons of Herculaneum are of utmost importance to anthropologist and historians, because they constitute a unique population: Romans of the time generally cremated their dead.
The state of health of the inhabitants of Herculaneum
Thanks to the discovery of the skeletons was possible to study the state of health in the time of death.
The skeletons of 139 Herculaneans (51 males, 49 females and 39 children) trapped by the volcanic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79 were studied by observation, measurement and chemical analysis.
In general, this population had excellent teeth with few lesions and edge-bite occlusion. Twenty-seven percent had some degree of hypo plastic lines in the dental enamel, suggesting that childhood illnesses were common.
The ancient population was taller than modern Neapolitans, but shorter than modern Americans. Also, their children grew at a slower rate than Americans of the same ages.
Biochemical analysis suggests that their diet was more dependent on sea fish than on red meat. Lead analysis shows slightly higher values for the adult male population than for the females.
Some degree of arthritis was apparent in 42% of the population. Traumata occurred to 22.7% of these people. Signs of healed anemia in any degree are present in 34.1%; etiology could have been nutritional deficiency or heterozygotes thalassemia. Two individuals and their pathologies are presented: one case of congenital bilateral hip dysplasia and the other of healed rickets.