Today, the site is extremely fragile. Over the years, it has been hit by earthquakes, bombers during World War II (1939-45), and countless floods. In recent years, its buildings were in danger of crumbling after every hard rainfall.
“Pompeii faced crisis on every level,” Osanna, the director of the Great Pompeii Project, recalls. His team of 200 archaeologists, architects, and other specialists is now working to stabilize and restore the ancient site.
Pompeii remains “the most important archaeological site in the Roman world,” says historian Mary Beard of Cambridge University. “Nowhere do we come face-to-face with [the ancient past] in quite this up-close-and-personal way.”
Pompeii has long been where “cutting-edge archaeological techniques are tried out,” Bodel adds. Such methods allow archaeologists to examine how ancient people from sites all over the globe lived.
Our evolving world also changes the way we look at Pompeii. “In the past, people were mostly fascinated by the rich,” says Steven Ellis, an archaeologist who works at the site. “These days, we’re asking about the 99 percent,” he says, meaning the city’s average working people.
For instance: How diverse was Pompeii? Researchers have found bodies of many ethnicities from as far away as present-day France. How many people came to Pompeii as slaves? What were their lives like?
Says Ellis, “There are almost endless questions.”