Leda and the Swan: A Fresco Comes to Life in Pompeii Excavation


ROME — The historic Pompeian fresco depicting the mythological scene of Leda and the swan was properly preserved. It reveals the rape of the queen of Sparta by Jupiter, the Romans’ Zeus, in the type of a swan.

The archaeological treasure, unearthed this month in the bed room of a home being excavated on the Via del Vesuvio in Pompeii, was the newest discover from an in depth excavation marketing campaign to safe a few of the fragile archaeological website’s most at-risk areas.

“This is one of the most critical areas of Pompeii,” Massimo Osanna, the website’s director common, mentioned in a video, which reveals an archaeologist fastidiously brushing centuries of earth from the Leda fresco, which was buried — together with the remainder of the metropolis — beneath ash, lapilli and rubble when Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D.

The restoration of the home is a part of a large-scale intervention, referred to as the Great Pompeii Project, in the Regio V sector of the metropolis, begun in July 2017 with funds from the European Union.

The mission includes excavating and securing greater than two miles of earth that border an unexcavated space of the historic metropolis. The archaeological stays alongside this entrance have suffered in current years on account of collapses and landslides attributable to heavy rains.

The reworking will step by step lower the slope of the hill, and is anticipated to drastically scale back the stress created by the earth on the excavated constructions.

Mr. Osanna mentioned in a telephone interview that the Leda fresco was merely the newest of the excavation marketing campaign’s many finds.

“There have been extraordinary discoveries,” he mentioned.

In August, archaeologists additionally unearthed in an adjoining room of the similar home a fresco of the fertility god Priapus weighing a phallus.

Erotic works of classical mythology had been standard in first-century Pompeii, Mr. Osanna mentioned, together with the Greek fable of Leda, the Spartan queen and spouse of Tyndareus. She was seduced and raped by Zeus in swan kind, earlier than having intercourse along with her husband.

There are variations to the fable; one holds that Helen, blamed for the Trojan War, and the twins Castor and Pollux had been hatched from two eggs from these unions.

Mr. Osanna mentioned that the presence of the Leda and Priapus frescoes in the home advised that the proprietor, seemingly to have been a freed slave who had made good, was displaying off his household’s energy.

“These are iconographies that this specific social and political class liked,” he mentioned.

Antonio Varone, a former director of the excavations at Pompeii, and the creator of a ebook about Pompeian erotic artwork, mentioned that intercourse was seen as “a natural impulse” in historic occasions, and that in many circumstances, owners “sought to entertain guests” whereas displaying off their erudition.

“These scenes would not have been scandalous; we find even cruder scenes” at some websites, he mentioned.

This yr, the excavations on Via del Vesuvio included two homes “with extraordinary mosaics and frescoes,” Mr. Osanna mentioned.

Skeletons were found in one dwelling, as well as a charcoal inscription etched on a wall; Pompeii officials said it supported the theory that Vesuvius erupted in October and not in August, as tradition holds.

The inscription (posted by Mr. Osanna on Instagram) was found in a room that had been undergoing renovations, and gives a date corresponding to Oct. 17. Pompeii officials suggested in a news release that the inscription dates “to a week prior to the great catastrophe.”

This year, archaeologists also found the skeleton of a man who was initially thought to have been crushed by a rock as he tried to escape, though later findings cast doubt on that theory.

Excavations will continue into the spring, while the remainder of 2019 will be dedicated to securing the areas that have been unearthed to make them accessible to the public, Mr. Osanna said.

At least 54 acres of the ancient city remain underground.

“We could dig for years, decades, even centuries, but we prefer to leave that to future generations,” he said.



Source link Nytimes.com

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