Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Digging for the Classics

The Times' Richard Owen reports today on an archaeological expedition at Herculaneum, where excavators hope to find papyrus scrolls preserved beneath layers of volcanic sediment. "Previous digs have unearthed classical works at a building now known as the Villa of the Papyri, thought to have belonged to Julius Caesar’s father-in-law, Lucius Calpurnius Piso, who was known to be a lover of poetry."

More than 1800 scrolls were removed from the villa when it was discovered during the 18th century - those are now at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. After additional portions of the villa were discovered back in 1997, funds for the project ran out amid protests over the techniques used in the dig, but now excavations have been allowed to resume, and will continue for the next year and a half.

"Some historians believe that the papyri, which may have included lost masterpieces by Aristotle, Euripides or Sophocles, were being packed to be taken to safety when the eruption occurred."

I'll keep an eye on this one - there could certainly be some awfully exciting finds down there.

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