2,000-Year-Old Public Laundry in Pompeii, Restored and Opened to the Public for the First Time
In Pompeii, the well-preserved Roman city inundated by hot volcanic gas and then covered with ash in 79 AD, experts have renovated and opened to public viewing several buildings, including a public laundry where people once washed their clothing in urine.
The buildings feature colored frescoes on the walls and mosaics on the floors featuring birds, flower vases and other scenes. Some of the buildings were damaged during World War II bombing.
The restoration of the six buildings cost about 105 million euros or about $115 million. The European Union had pledged millions to restore Pompeii, and the Italian government kicked in a lesser amount, but squabbling among bureaucrats and mismanagement meant that just a fraction had been spent by October 2015 with deadlines looming. Restorers began working around the clock to avoid losing the grants.
The United Nations had threatened to remove Pompeii from UNESCO's World Heritage Site status because of mismanagement. But that threat appears to have been rescinded as the Italian government, under archeologist Massimo Osanna, has turned the project around in two years.
Ancient Laundry Facility
The laundry facility, estimated to be about 2,000 years old, had large tubs or baths for cleaning clothes. It also had stone basins for dyeing and a press used to iron clothing. People collected the urine, used to wash tough stains from tunics, from public urinals. The Pompeiians dried their laundry on the roof of the facility by laying their clothes out in the sun.
Pompeii was a flourishing city entombed in volcanic ash. Many people are believed to have escaped the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, but some people and many buildings, including this grand theater, were preserved in ash. (Photo by Radomił/ Wikimedia Commons )
Luxury Pompeiian Villas
Another building that opened on Christmas Day is the Casa del Criptoportico, a luxury villa with a garden that also was restored. The ancient home features four thermals baths covered in stucco and mosaics of Bushmen. The name Criptoportico comes from the long, covered corridor of the house. It has large windows to allow light into an adjacent sitting room, says an article in the Telegraph.
Four other homes were opened to the public on Christmas: la Casa di Paquius Proculus, la Casa del Sacerdos Amandus, la Casa di Fabius Amandio and la Casa dell’Efebo.
Pompeii, the City Frozen in Time
Pompeii, the city frozen in time by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, had been placed under the protection of the Italian government from degradation by the elements and looters, including possibly the organized-crime group, the Camorra, which Ancient Origins reported earlier this year. Numerous restoration and construction projects are underway.
The restorations of the ancient city were being carried out with a 130 million euro ($143 million) budget that was also used to produce a museum exhibit of plaster casts of some of the bodies of people frozen in their last moments of life. Many artworks, statues, frescos and papyrus scrolls were preserved by the volcanic eruption that inundated the town, which had 2.7 million visitors in 2014.
Pompeii was a flourishing Roman city from the 6th century BC until it became preserved by the layers of ash that spewed out from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Although Pompeii was initially rediscovered at the end of the 16th century, it was only properly excavated in the 18th century.
One of the sexually explicit frescoes that shocked the re-discoverers of Pompeii in the latge 1500s (Photo by Fer.filo/ Wikimedia Commons )
Excavators were startled by the sexually explicit frescoes they were unearthing, so they quickly covered them over.
When excavations resumed nearly two centuries later, archaeologists found the city almost entirely intact – loaves of bread still sat in the oven, bodies of men, women, children and pets were found frozen in their last moments, the expressions of surprise and fear still etched on their faces, and the remains of meals remained discarded on the pavement. The discovery meant that researchers could piece together exactly what life was like for the ancient Romans of Pompeii – the food they ate, the jobs they performed and the houses they lived in.
Featured image: The walls of the laundry and other buildings were damaged by World War II bombing. (Photo: D’Auria)
By Mark Miller