by Stephen Smith

POMPEII - On the 24th of August 79 AD., the summit of Vesuvius exploded and a tsunami of ash and pumice buried the Roman city of Pompeii. Lying undisturbed for nearly 2,000 years, it was not until Giuseppe Fiorelli in 1860 invented an ingenious system of pouring plaster into the voids and cavities created by the ash that the people and events were magically revealed in the throws of their last breath. From that moment Pompeii captivated the imagination of the world as an ancient city frozen in time.

Pompeii is one of Italyís most popular destinations attracting more than 2.5 million annually. It is also one of the most significant and the most neglected of world heritage sites. Today visitors are exposed to less than half of what they could have seen a mere 40 years ago, as monuments and houses that were once open to the public are now closed.

But with popularity has come destruction. Mangy stray dogs roam the ruins begging for food, walls are defaced by graffiti and routinely chipped away for mementos, unprotected frescos have been left to fade to nothing. And the vain effort to preserve, the rusting support beams that grapple columns and half walls seem only to accentuate the weakened stone and mortar that appear to be crumbling before my eyes.

The ruins of Pompeii, like the ruins everywhere are slowly disappearing. Every year new archeological digs uncover more of Pompeiiís secrets, yet much of the unexcavated city and will remain so for fear that the antiquities dug up will most surely be plundered. So for now Pompeiiís last treasures lay safely buried.


photography: Stephen Smith

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