Conservation activities need to start with an understanding of an object or building. Each conservation intervention needs to be accompanied by appropriate graphic documentation but at Herculaneum this has been difficult because of a lack of accurate site plans. This problem is being tackled in two ways: a new plan has been created on a scale of 1:100 for the entire archaeological area, and more detailed surveys have been carried out where there is a particularly serious state of decay or where works for new infrastructure are taking place.
The new 1:100 site plan was started after it was discovered that there were serious errors and gaps in the existing plan, which had been created by digitising numerous surveys that had been carried out over the years. Having a reliable plan of the entire site is essential both for accurately planning works on infrastructures and for creating management tools for future programming of site protection and decay management.
Before the plan could be started a network of bench marks was triangulated on three different levels: first GPS was used to link in to the national system of geodetic datum points established by the Istituto Geografico Militare (Italian state institution responsible for mapping and survey); then a series of bench marks were established along Herculaneum’s streets; and then finally a tighter network of points were positioned within each insula.
Surveying was carried out using a total station and involved multiple projection layers so as to document each floor of every building. The appropriate level of detail that was surveyed for the 1:100 scale was then integrated with a series of spot heights in each room. Survey data was converted in CAD to complex series of layers, except the survey of the floors where traditional graphic symbols are used. The plan also includes the archaeological area of the ‘New Excavations’ (i.e. the excavated section of the Villa of the Papyri and Herculaneum’s Insula Occidentalis) and integrates an existing plan of the Roman theatre together with the position of nearby tunnels and structures, so that all of Herculaneum’s known archaeological heritage is available on a single plan.
The new site plan will soon be officially adopted by the Soprintendenza and will be made available to researchers and those who work at Herculaneum.
A systematic review has also been undertaken of the way in which the urban blocks, buildings, rooms and street entrances are named and numbered, adopting logical criteria for standardizing the various different systems, with the aim of facilitating documentation which is undertaken daily by numerous practioners working at the site. For this reason a relational database has been created which shows the spatial relationships and which works at different levels of detail in order to meet future requirements of work within the archaeological site where possible.
This new site gazetteer will also be available in the future along with the new plan.