lunedì 17 agosto 2009

Statue reveals Roman lady with her make-up still on

Statue reveals Roman lady with her make-up still on
Richard Owen
The Times 25/03/2006

BRITISH and Italian archaeologists have recovered for the first time a painted Roman statue with its colours preserved.
The head of a female Amazon warrior, shown exclusively to The Times, was retrieved this week from the debris of a collapsed escarpment at Herculaneum, the seaside resort for the rich and powerful of ancient Rome that was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD79.
Domenico Camardo, the archaeologist who dug the head from the volcanic rock, said that when a workman first alerted him to the discovery, he “hardly dared hope” that the bust would be intact. “Only the back of the head was visible, and I was afraid the face would have crumbled,” he said.
The nose and mouth were missing, but the hair, pupils and eyelashes were “as pristine as they were when Herculaneum was overwhelmed by the eruption”, Monica Martelli Castaldi, the restorer of the team, said.
“Those eyes are alive, looking at us from 2,000 years ago,” she said. “To find this much pigment is very, very special.” Although it had been known that Roman statues were painted, only faint traces of pigment had been found before now. It had also been assumed that classical statues were painted brightly. In fact, the colouring on the head is a delicate shade of orange-red, which, although faded, indicates that classical colouring was subtle and sophisticated, Jane Thompson, the project manager, said.
Herculaneum was buried in the same catastrophic eruption that overwhelmed nearby Pompeii. Whereas Pompeii was buried in volcanic ash, Herculaneum became entombed in molten rock.
The site was excavated in the 18th century and again in the Fascist period but was then neglected for decades, until the British School in Rome and the Superintendency of Pompeii started the Herculaneum Conservation Project, funded by the Packard Humanities Institute, of California, in 2004.
Since then restorers have patched up flaking frescoes, brought in falcons to chase away pigeons, whose droppings corrode the ruins, and tackled humidity caused by rain and rising damp.
Areas closed to visitors for years are gradually being reopened to the public, and lost treasures are being found.
The collapsed escarpment where the Amazon head was found was close to the great Basilica, which has been partially excavated. The Basilica — the law courts — was linked to the cult of Hercules, who, as part of his labours, had to fight Hippolyte, the Amazon Queen.,,13509-2102022,00.html