Town Hall Dig Yields Secrets - Dianasancienthistory

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of Vesuvius

Cities of Vesuvius                    Terms and Concepts

  Anthropologist                    A person who specialises in the science that deals with the
                                    origins, physical and cultural development, biological
                                    characteristics, and social customs and beliefs of humankind.
  Custodianship                     Someone who has custody(care); keeper; guardian. They can
                                    be a person, country or organisation.

  Disarticulated                    To make or become disjointed

  In situ                           Situated in the original, natural or existing place or position

  Repatriation                      To return to one’s own country

  Important contributors to Pompeii & Herculaneum’s excavation of Bodies

  Dr Sara Bisel                     A physical anthropologist and classical archaeologist who
                                    played a prominent role in early scientific research at
                                    Herculaneum, pioneering work in the chemical and physical
                                    analysis of skeletons yielded new insights into the nutrition
                                    and health of ancient populations.
  Giuseppe Fiorelli (1860 – 1875)   He was an Italian archaeologist who established the
                                    meticulous method of studying archaeological sites layer by
                                    layer. He also hit upon the innovation of pumping plaster into
                                    the cavities left by the victims' bodies in the hardened lava,
                                    thereby producing casts of the corpses' clothing and features
  Dr. Estelle Lazer                 An archaeologist whose research has been on the skeletal
                                    remains found at Pompeii.

  Amedeo Maiuri (1924 – 1961)       Neapolitan archaeologist famous for his revolutionary
                                    excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum. Famously
                                    excavated the ‘House of the Surgeon’

Cities of Vesuvius
    Roman Society – Pompeii & Herculaneum:
  Ethical Remains: To display or not to display?
 Archaeology is no different to other scientific fields
 in having a responsibility to apply ethical principles
 to the recovery, analysis and display of artefacts.
 Two continuing contentious issues are the study
 and display of human remains. Are skeletal remains
 just like other artefacts after a period of time? Who
 has custodianship and, therefore, responsibility for
 human bones? How far can scientific specialists go
 to analyse human remains? These issues are
 relevant to the study of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
 Here you can look at the issues and the
 appropriateness of some solutions.                     Source 1.10. The plaster cast of a Pompeian body on
 The aspects of ethical issues for investigation are:   display

         the study of human remains
         the display of human remains.

                                   In the nineteenth and for most of the twentieth century, it was
                                   accepted practice in scientific circles to collect and study human

                                   Museums and other collections had extensive collections, and
                                   displays of bodies and skeletons in various states of preservation
                                   were relatively common.

                                   The keeping of skeletal material for scientific study has come under
                                   scrutiny, often from indigenous groups seeking repatriation of the
                                   bones of their ancestors.

 Source 1.11 Crouching man body cast

Cities of Vesuvius
 Theatre of the Dead
 During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries
 it was common practice for the excavators of Pompeii and              Example : The House of Surgeon
 Herculaneum to put on displays for visiting nobility and
 the general public. Human remains were presented as                   This was ‘discovered’ three times for royal
 being in situ, and were sometimes manipulated or                      visitors. When the Austrian Emperor, Joseph II,
 arranged to create a theatrical effect. Specific areas would          visited a house named after him in 1768, a
 be salted with artefacts, such as coins and statues, then             skeleton previously discovered in the kitchen was
                                                                       ‘excavated.’ The emperor was not so easily
 ‘excavated’ from the volcanic deposits. Skeletons were
                                                                       fooled and quickly recognised the deception.
 also used as props on these theatrical displays.
                                                                       Source 1.11

 House of Menander: Creating drama from bones
 Amedeo Maiuri adopted a similar approach in the House of Menander, which he excavated from 1926
 to 1927.

  Room 19                                          Corridor L       (Other side of west wall of Room
  Two adult skeletons                              10, mostly adult, skeletons
  Female juvenile skeleton                         Buried in Levels 2.5m above ground
  Hoe and a pick near the bodies                   Appear to have collapsed on top of each
  Holes in the southern and western                Bodies were so intertwined it was hard to
  walls of Room 19.                                distinguish individuals
                                                   A large cylindrical bronze lantern in
                                                   association with the bodies.
  Source 1.12 Table showing the items that Maiuri claimed to have found at the House of Menander

 He stated that the skeletons from Room 19 were later removed and replaced with those found in
 corridor L.

Cities of Vesuvius
     Think about it.....
     How excited would you be if archaeologists made a discovery at an ancient site whilst you were there?
     Would you tell other s to go along to?

 Dr. Estelle Lazer examined the skeletons                           now in Room 19 and observed the

        3 male skeletons
        1 female skeleton
        At least 3 individuals under the
        age of 5                                                         What does this mean?
                                                                    This indicates that the skeletons from
 She also found that a number of the                              corridor L had been moved into Room 19.
 skeletons, and even the skulls, had been
 ‘constructed’. One skeleton had two left                                         
 thigh bones, and skull number 5 had
 been creatively formed from pieces from
 several different skulls, slabs of wet ash and a vertebra.
 It was probably done after Maiuri’s time.

 Most popular books on Pompeii
 presume that all bodies now located       Interpretation
 in Room 19 were originally
                                           The bodies belonged to looters who had returned to Pompeii after the
 discovered there.
                                           eruption and had been killed by the poisonous fumes trapped in the ash.

 This is an excellent example of a conscious attempt by some archaeologists to create a dramatic scene
 that would appeal to visitors.



 The Italian archaeologist Fiorelli’s systematic excavation at Pompeii helped to preserve much of the ancient
 city as nearly intact as possible and contributed significantly to modern archaeological methods.

Cities of Vesuvius
 The special and dramatic feature of Fiorelli’s excavations was his technique of making plaster casts of
 the dead.


 An interesting aspect of the human remains at Pompeii is that when the lava, ashes and pumice cooled
 in the aftermath of the eruption, they solidified around the bodies.


 Over time, the flesh and clothing decayed, leaving cavities in the solidified lava that bore the imprint
 and the shape of every detail.


 Fiorelli pumped liquid plaster into the cavities and left it to set;


 Then he chipped the lava away to reveal an accurate plaster cast of the body caught in the moment of

                        Source 1.13 Stages showing Fiorelli’s techniques for making plaster casts

Cities of Vesuvius
 Today, archaeologists are continuing to excavate the remains of more victims and they are preserved
 using the techniques developed by Fiorelli. Instead of plaster however, they are using epoxy resin.


 DR SARA BISEL & THE                                                   BONES
 In June 1982, Dr Sara Bisel, an                                       archaeologist     and    an
 anthropologist received an                                            urgent request from National
 Geographic to help with the                                           study of bones excavated at

 Workers who had been digging                                          a ditch on the beachfront at
 Herculaneum had uncovered                                             ancient skeletons in what had
 once been boatsheds.

 It had been previously thought                                    that   the     people at
 Herculaneum had escaped as                                        no bodies like those at
           It been found and
 Pompeii had was rare that theseskeletons were                     only 30 skeletons
                                                           completely intact. The had ever
 been discovered.
           Romans normally cremated their dead and so up until the
           discovery of these skeletons experts had never had a chance
           to study skeletal remains!!!

 Dr. Bisel task was to help excavate the skeletons, then to preserve, reconstruct and study them.
 Altogether there were:

Cities of Vesuvius
          139 skeletons in the Chambers
             o 42 skeletons in one & a             Sarah Bisel....On walking into the boat chamber for the first time
                                                   ‘As I entered the cave-like boat chamber, I could barely see even
             o 25 People huddled together
                                                   though the sun flooded through the door. Someone handed e a
                 in a different chamber
                                                   flashlight, but its light cast greenish shadows making it feel even
                                                   more spooky.

                                                   The light played over the shelter, no bigger than a single garage
                                                   and still crusted over with volcanic rock. I saw an oddly shaped
 Dr. Bisel gives names to some of the              mound halfway back. I took several steps into the chamber and
 skeletons that she examined:                      pointed the light at the mound.

                                                   The narrow beam found a skull, the pale face a grimace of death.
                                                   As my eyes grew accustomed to the dim light I soon realised there
 A woman estimated to be approximately             were more bones and skulls everywhere. They were all tangled
 40 years old and 155cm tall.                      together – clinging to each other in their final moments – and it
                                                   was hard to distinguish one from another. But I knew that 12
                                                   skeletons had been found in all – 3 men, 4 women and 5 children.
                                                   One child had an iron house key near him. Did he think he would be
 The Ring Lady                                     going home?’

 A woman, also in her forties, and wearing         Source 1.14 Dr Sara Bisel’s report on entering the boathouse.
 rings, earrings, and two golden bracelets.

 The Soldier

 A male, 173cm tall, with his sword in his belt, carpenter’s tools and three gold coins in his money belt.

 The Fisherman

                                                          Approximately 16 years old, with muscular
                                                          shoulders from rowing and worn teeth from
                                                          holding his fishing net in his teeth while he
                                                          repaired it.

Cities of Vesuvius
         Source 1.15 Bones discovered at Herculaneum

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 Anyone dealing with archaeological human remains should consider the ethics associated with study &


                           The systematic reflection on moral issues


    Concerned with the correct conduct and are based on the perception of what is
                                   right or wrong
                                      Source 1.16 Brennan & Lazer


             Determining what is actually right or wrong. Attitudes vary between cultures and can change
             over time. It is also possible for a cultural group to alter accepted opinions over a short period of
             time. Also, there may be a number of opinions within one cultural group as to what is right or
             wrong about a particular issue.

 That particular issue is the study of human remains from archaeological contexts. There is no correct
So what’s the problem???
 answer when it comes to determining what should be done. We can only determine what the best
 course of action is on a case by case basis.

Cities of Vesuvius
 A global Perspective
 We cannot look at these issues in isolation. In order to understand the ethical considerations that
 relate to the human remains from Pompeii and Herculaneum, it is necessary to look at the issues
 relating to human remains on a more global perspective.

 Tradition until the mid 20th Century

 Tradition of collecting, studying and displaying human remains, often without consent, that continued
 in Western society well into the 20th Century.

        Racial Supremacy

        Studies of skeletons in the past were often made to prove theories of racial supremacy.

 Tradition in the latter half of the 20th Century

 Increase in pressure by various groups of people around the world to have remains returned, often for
 reburial. E.G Indigenous Australian communities want the remains of their ancestors returned for
 reburial in their country.

 Guidelines and Codes of Ethics

 These help scholars to address the difficult issues associated with the ethics of dealing with human

 Who created them:     Various professional Associations of Archaeologists

                       Individual Universities

        Mostly involve considerations of indigenous people.
        Shift in attitude over the last 20 years.
        Much more interest in dealing with the remains of other cultures in a more sensitive manner.
        There is a flow on effect from the need to address the wishes of traditional communities.

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                   Modern Example...In the United Kingdom

                   English Heritage has just produced guidelines for the reburial of Christian
                   bones from archaeological contexts                                Source 1.17

                                                    Resulted in the development of guidelines for
 2005 – Major
 conference in London,
 Law and Ethics of the
 Historical display of       International Council of Museums (ICOM) Code of Ethics for Museums 2004
 Human Remains,              3.     Exhibition of Sensitive Materials
 attracted speakers          Human remains and materials of sacred significance must be displayed in a manner
 from a range of             consistent with professional standards and, where known, taking into account the
 European countries.         interests and beliefs of members of the community, ethnic or religious groups from
                             whom the objects originated. They must be presented with great tact and respect for the
         Source 1.18         feelings of human dignity held by all peoples.
        dealing     with
        European             4.4     Removal from public display
        remains     and      Requests from removal of public display of human remains or material of sacred
        cemeteries.          significance from the originating communities must be addressed expeditiously
                             with respect and sensitivity. Requests for the return of such material should be
                             addressed similarly. Museum policies should clearly define the process for
                             responding to such requests.                               Source 1.19


                  Australia is a leader in this field!!!! In 1982 the Council of
                  Australian Museum Directors passed a resolution that human
                             remains would not be displayed in public.

Cities of Vesuvius
 Give me your opinion
   1. Should human remains be displayed to the general public?
   2. How do human remains help us understand the past?
   3. Could this understanding be achieved in any other way?
   4. Is there any difference between displaying plaster casts of human bodies and skeletons?
   5. What is the difference between displaying the remains of people from Pompeii and
      Herculaneum and displaying the remains of more recent victims of disasters such as the Haiti

Cities of Vesuvius
                                                               Human Remains – Pompeii
    Problem...                                          & Herculaneum
    Should the bones be rearticulated and posed
    as they were found in a re-created setting, as is   Since the commencement of excavation of the
    museum practice around the world?                   Vesuvian site in the 18th Century, human
    OR                                                  remains have been viewed, firstly as objects for
    Should they be taken away and stored                display and secondly as resources for research.

 Pompeii                                                        Herculaneum

 Bodies discovered from first excavations in 1748       Bodies discovered 1982 onwards
 Attitudes to human rights remains still had NOT        Attitudes to human rights developed
 Actual forms of bodies in Pompeii are preserved        Only skeletons preserved
 Remains were used to illustrate the gruesome           Remains were used research
 manner in which the victims were killed


 Unique type of preservation has made the individual victims more accessible to visitors to Pompeii,
 and the casts of people have been one of the main attractions to this site since the 19th Century.

 Skeletons and casts have been displayed in Pompeii, wither in the houses in which they were found or
 in other protected buildings. Some human remains have been displayed in museums and most
 recently in travelling exhibitions.


 The discoveries in boathouse and on the beachfront raised a number of issues regarding research and

 Sara Bisel was worried about what to do once the skeletons had been exposed.

Cities of Vesuvius
                                                                 Use casts! Casting techniques are used to
                                                                 create replicas of human remains, which
                                                                 can be displayed on site in the location that
                                                                 the skeletons were found. This means that
                                                                 the original material can be studied and
                                                                 stored appropriately. It also means that the
 Evidence                                                        forms of the skeletons rather than the
                                                                 actual remains are displayed.
 Casts have been made from a number of bones found at
 the beachfront in Herculaneum.

 Think about it....

 We might question why we would treat a dead body from a modern catastrophe, such as the Haiti
 Earthquake differently from some of the bodies at from Pompeii and Herculaneum. We would not
 expect to see the remains of these people on display or view photographs of their dead bodies. Even if
 there was a scientific interest in the cause of these deaths during a volcanic eruption, it would
 currently be considered unethical to permit public viewing of any kind.

        Why then is it acceptable to allow the display and photography of the dead from Pompeii and
        How might you justify this practice on educational or scientific grounds?
        Does this issue only concern respect for the dead or does it also encompass distress to living
        groups or individuals who claim some cultural or genetic association with the deceased, that is,
        the stakeholders?
        Is the elapse of considerable time also an important factor in our attitude to the dead?

 Display of human remains
Cities of Vesuvius
 In the 19th and 20th Centuries, the collection of skulls and other remains of indigenous peoples was
 justified by reference to the needs of scientific study. However, in recent years, museums in various
 countries have been under pressure for the return of human remains to the communities to which
 these skeletons belonged. Some people like indigenous Australians, consider that it is unacceptable to
 display the remains of ancestors to the public.

 Our heightened awareness has led to reassessment of how we treat the remains of dead people from
 other countries. For example, there has been much discussion in recent years about whether the
 remains of ancient peoples who have been removed from tombs, should be displayed, as they were
 clearly meant to spend eternity in their resting places.

 This same consideration is given to the remains of ancient European people.

                                                                           Tollund Man
   New Technology!                                               Found in a peat bog, only his head
   Allows holographic displays of these                            was conserved and displayed.
   people rather than placing actual                                                       Source 1.20
   bodies on view. Source 1.21              An Important

 Not all cultures consider the display of
 human remains to be offensive.

                                                     The Capuchin Monks – Italy

                                                     Italy as the custodians of the human remains from the site
                                                     associated with the AD79 eruption, display human remains in
                                                     a religious context.

                                                     The disarticulated remains of 4000 brothers who died
                                                     between 1528 and 1870 are displayed in an ossuary (bon
                                                     house) in the crypt of the church of Santa Maria dell
                                                     Concezione in Rome. The bones have been arranged to form
                                                     decorative patterns. Signs explain the philosophical purpose o
                                                     the display. One reads: ‘What you are now, we once were
                                                     what we are now, you will be.’                           Source 1.22

Cities of Vesuvius
                                                           Source 1.23 Crypt of the church of Santa
                                                           Maria della Concezione in Rome.
                 Under Town Hall
                                                             Recent       Cases       –     Human
                Near Central Station                  Remains
        Randwick Destitute Children’s Asylum         As population grows, more space is required.
       Mining Town at Cadia – Central Western        Cemeteries must be occasionally relocated to
                       NSW                           meet the needs of industry and growing
     Indeed, in some highly populated countries, cemeteries are
     considered only temporary.

Source 1.24 Mortuary Station Cemetery                                                                      Mortuary

                                             These two cemeteries were relocated as population

Cities of Vesuvius
Source 1.25 Excavation at Town Hall Cemetery

 Sometimes the need to move cemeteries can highlight problems between different groups within a
 community. A good example is seen in the case of the African American slave cemetery, dating to the
 colonial period in New York. The cemetery was discovered during the construction of a federal office
 tower in Lower Manhattan in 1991. The cemetery had been closed in 1794 and the modern African
 American population did not wish to have their ancestors moved. Eventually 400 skeletons were
 excavated and studied. Though a number of people were initially opposed to the excavation of the
 bones, the study provided an opportunity to learn more about the lives of enslaved African Americans
 in the 18th Century. It was considered important for this study to be conducted by African American
 scholars. The bodies were re-interred in 2003.

Cities of Vesuvius
 Town Hall dig yields secrets
 Wendy Frew Urban Affairs Editor
 January 15, 2008

 IT'S not quite CSI but an archaeological excavation under way at Sydney Town Hall could solve some
 of the mysteries that lie beneath one of the city's most important buildings.

 After a preliminary investigation in August, archaeologists have begun excavating what is left of one of
 Sydney's first cemeteries, as part of a restoration of the Town Hall. A team headed by Dr Mary Casey
 and Tony Lowe has found human remains, including a leg bone, in two of seven graves they expect to
 hold bone fragments.

 If the bones are in good condition, testing could reveal the sex, approximate age and possibly ethnicity
 of these early Sydneysiders. Tests might even be able to reveal details of the lives they led.

 "For example, if any of the dead were convicts who had done hard labour you might be able to see the
 stress in their bones," Dr Casey said.

 "It is a really important site and it would be our preference to leave it there but we need to keep using
 the Town Hall."

 The excavation will create space for plant and equipment required for the building to meet modern fire
 safety standards. The public will be allowed to view the diggings during an open day on January 22.

 Dr Casey said the preliminary investigation had identified 53 potential grave sites but most were
 expected to be empty. Anything found will be recorded.

 "In 39 of the graves there was some evidence of coffins but in the majority of cases the lids had been
 removed, suggesting the graves have already been exhumed," she said. "Any bone fragments found in
 these graves could possibly be the result of an incomplete exhumation process conducted during the
 1880s, when the hall was built."

 The principal cemetery for Sydney town from 1793 to 1820 was bounded by George, Druitt, Bathurst
 and Kent streets. Government records show about 2000 bodies - including those of convicts, soldiers
 and free settlers - were interred there.

 This story was found at:

Cities of Vesuvius
 Back to Pompeii & Herculaneum
 In Pompeii and Herculaneum, there is still much work that needs to be done on the human remains.
 One argument for continued access rests on the need for the replication of scientific studies and the
 possibility of future advances in technology that will enable the extraction of new information from
 these bones.

     According to...Brennan & Lazer

     ‘To date, the study and display of human remains from Pompeii and
     Herculaneum has not been an issue that has generated any level of discussion or
     controversy. As attitudes towards treatment of the dead change in many
     countries, it is only a matter of time before this becomes an issue from the
     human remains from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.’               Source 1.26

   Q.What problems did you encounter when studying the human bones?
   A.The human skeletal remains were not appreciated as a valuable scientific resource until the latter
   part of the twentieth century. While they had been stored, they had not been adequately curated and
   as a result had become disarticulated. This meant that I had to design a research project to
   accommodate the limitations of the material.
   The bones were stored in unoccupied ancient buildings in Pompeii with other uncatalogued artefacts.
   These bones had to be studied in situ with no laboratory facilities, or even tables or adequate light. I
   had to be locked in with them as these stores also contained precious finds, like portions of marble
   statues. Only three custodians had security clearance to handle the keys to these buildings.
   Occasionally the morning custodian forgot to tell the afternoon one about my location when they
   changed shifts. This meant I had to suffer many hours of incarceration. They were invariably quite
   apologetic when I was eventually liberated. Although I worked alone I had many companions as these
   buildings also housed their own ecosystems. These included bats, rodents of various kinds, snakes,
   insects, lizards and birds who found empty skulls to be convenient nesting places.
   Source 1.27 An interview with Dr. Estelle Lazer

Cities of Vesuvius
        Is it disrespectful to display human remains at Pompeii and Herculaneum, or in a museum?

        Is it less disrespectful to have the casts of the human victims on display?

        Should the skeletons be given a proper burial?

        What sort of burial; Christian etc?

        Where would they be buried?

        Are they being treated as nothing more than curiosities?

        Is it no longer an issue because they have been dead for such a long time?

        Should the casts and skeletons of animals be on display?

        Should bones be seen solely as artefacts that provide valuable information?

        What is the most appropriate way to store and display human remains?

        Should archaeologists have the freedom to pursue knowledge and scientific enquiry without political
        pressures and legal constraints?

        Who should have custodianship over human remains?

        1. Why were Pompeian bones displayed in the past? Is it respectful to continue to do
              this? Are the bones important to our understanding of the site?
        2. Is there a difference between a holographic display of human remains and the actual
              remains of a human being on display? Which is better and why?

                                                 Think About it...
            How would you feel if a team of archaeologists were to dig up and study the remains of your
             family members? What would be your reaction to research on your great grandparents as
                                 compared to a study on your parents or siblings?


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