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Roman Villa & Lost Library Emerge After 2000 Years (Reuters)

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  • Larry Smart
    Roman Villa, Lost Library
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 1 5:30 PM
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      Roman Villa, Lost Library Emerge After 2,000 Years
      Sat March 1, 2003 05:32 AM ET
      By Shasta Darlington

      ROME (Reuters) - The long-buried Villa of the Papyri, one of Italy's
      richest Roman villas famed for its library of ancient scrolls, opened to
      the public Saturday almost 2,000 years after it was submerged in
      volcanic mud.

      Although only a small fraction of the once sumptuous villa at
      Herculaneum which belonged to the father-in-law of Julius Caesar has
      been excavated, small groups of visitors will be allowed to tour the
      site on weekends.

      Mount Vesuvius buried the villa under 100 feet of volcanic mud in 79 AD
      -- the same time it entombed Pompeii.

      "It is without rival among Roman villas," said Andrew Wallace-Hadrill,
      director of the British School at Rome and head of an international
      committee overseeing works at Herculaneum.

      "It's also the excitement of seeing a new excavation, to get the
      impression of it emerging from the rock," he told Reuters.

      The sprawling villa once occupied 30,000 sq feet overlooking the Bay of
      Naples. It was adorned by hundreds of bronze and marble statues and
      stocked with a vast private library of texts written on papyrus scrolls
      -- from which it derives its name.

      The splendor of the villa has spawned imitators. In the 1970s, Paul
      Getty had the villa recreated in Malibu, California.


      Diggers making exploratory tunnels stumbled across the villa in the 18th
      century and subsequent excavations unearthed a treasure chest of art and
      ancient scrolls. In 1991, archaeologists dug out a wide crater to get a
      better look.

      "One of the biggest novelties uncovered is that the villa isn't just on
      one level, there are two entire levels below to explore,"
      Wallace-Hadrill said.

      While officials debate whether to continue excavations on the villa --
      which lies beneath the modern day city of Ercolano -- they have taken
      the unusual step of opening what has already been dug up to visitors.

      "We owe it to all the scholars of the world who have repeatedly signed
      appeals so that antiquity's only library be opened up," Pier Giovanni
      Guzzo, the head of archaeological works at Pompeii and Herculaneum, said
      in a recent interview.

      Hundreds of the scrolls have been carefully opened and many others could
      be read in the near future thanks to digital and scanning technology.
      Most of the statues are on display in nearby Naples.

      The scrolls, which looked like sticks of charcoal when they were first
      discovered, have mostly turned out to be works of Greek epicurean
      philosophy from the first century BC.


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