The Contribution of Archaeologists to History

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Towards the mid 19th century, methods in excavating Pompeii and Herculaneum changed due to the concerns associated with the preservation and conservation of the site. As a result of this, archaeologists such as Giuseppe Fiorelli and Amedeo Maiuri developed new methods and approaches towards the excavation of Pompeii. Giuseppe Fiorelli excavated Pompeii in 1860-1875. Fiorelli’s aim was to introduce a more systematic approach to excavations as a whole due to the destruction of the site in previous excavations. He also aimed to control the results of the publication so that it could be open to the public, open the site to more visitors, incorporate the site into a teaching program at the Naples, and to house objects that were not wanted in the Naples Museum. Fiorelli’s most famous achievement was the recognition of cavities in the deposits of hardened ash. Through this, he was able to create an impression of the victims’ bodies. Fiorelli injected liquid plaster into the cavities of body contours as they decomposed, enabling him to recover the shapes of humans, animals and objects during the eruption. This made an enormous contribution to the study of the eruption in Pompeii and Herculaneum as it allowed archaeologists to clearly see the facial expressions, what people were doing and how they reacted during the first and latter signs of the eruption. The plaster cast of a dog chained to a pole depicted him climbing up a pole until his tether would allow him to before he suffocated. Fiorelli was also responsible for introducing a uniform numbering and naming system by dividing the topography of the site, of the parts excavated and not excavated. Instead of naming a site, such as the House of Menander, he allocated a number to each site. This system made it easier to draw up plans and to locate individual structures on Pompeii and Herculaneum. Buildings were identified by three numbers: region, block and entrance. This method is still used today by archaeologists for...
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