Saturday, August 4, 2012

Giuseppe Fiorelli (#100)

Background 

Giuseppe Fiorelli was born in Naples, Italy in 1823, though not much is known about his childhood.

Finding Pompeii

In the article on Pliny the Elder, Pliny died during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, a mountain along the Bay of Naples. In the eruption, the city of Pompeii was buried along with many of its people. Parts of Pompeii and its neighboring city, Herculaneum were discovered at various points in time. A few frescoes were discovered in 1599, when an underground channel was being dug. In 1738, Herculaneum was discovered while workers were building the King of Naples's summer palace. Karl Weber directed the first real excavations in 1764, but the full excavation did not start until 1860, when Giuseppe Fiorelli took charge. In 1860, King Victor Emmanuel II of Naples came to power and appointed Giuseppe Fiorelli as the head of the excavations in Pompeii. Fiorelli also became a professor of archaeology at Naples University. 

New Methods

As the director of excavations, Fiorelli introduced new excavation techniques. First, he made the excavation site study the site layer by layer. Though this took a long time, much more was could be learned the site. He also created a training school where students could learn how to study particular materials and building techniques used in Pompeii. Fiorelli's most famous excavation technique was that of pouring plaster into cavities left by bodies in the hardened lava and volcanic ash. This process, now known as the Fiorelli process, allowed the archaeologists to recreate the position and look of the body at the time of death. Fiorelli also pushed for the restoration of Pompeii's buildings, though most of the artwork was brought to Naples.

The End

Fiorelli directed the excavation of Pompeii from 1860 to 1875.  Fiorelli was appointed the director of the Naples National Archaeological Museum in 1863, and in 1875, he was appointed as the director general of Italian Antiquities and Fine Arts.  Fiorelli died on January 28th, 1896, though the cause of death is unknown. Pompeii remains one of the most famous archaeological sites of all time, and although little is known about his life, Fiorelli makes our list because the methods of archaeology that he used on Pompeii became the basis of modern archaeology. Though plastering body cavities is not used often, it was a creative and useful way to study the bodies. Also, Fiorelli's layer-by-layer method of archaeology and his study of building methods and materials are still used today. The excavation of Pompeii is now widely accepted as the first modern archaeological dig.

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