Paestum, Temple of Neptune monitored online

Zuchtriegel, news on history of construction comes from dig

18 March, 12:07

    ROME - A continuous seismic monitoring system has been put into place for the Temple of Neptune in Paestum, which is perhaps the most famous Doric temple of the ancient world and the best-conserved of Magna Graecia.

    The project, which became operational in recent days, was created thanks to a collaboration between the Archaeological Park of Paestum and Velia and the Civil Engineering Department of the University of Salerno.

    Part of the data will be accessible to the public online at the park's website, while complete access will be provided for free to research entities worldwide.

    The park's director, Gabriel Zuchtriegel, said the project includes 14 monitoring points, created with sensors that have the latest technology and are positioned on the high parts of the building and underground.

    The sensors will monitor in real time every slight movement of the ancient structure.

    The precision of the accelerometers is such that they can measure not only seismic activity, but also the impact of traffic and even wind on the temple.

    All of the data, which will be recorded in a systematic way, will help create a dynamic model of the building's behaviour and track structural changes that aren't visible to the naked eye but are potentially dangerous.

    "In practice, this is a virtuous integration between applied research and protection, which uses highly innovative technologies and sensors, developed by professor Fabrizio Barone for application in the sectors of seismology and geophysics, integrating the knowledge of many scientific sectors, including archaeology, architecture, geology and structural engineering," said Luigi Petti, an engineer at the University of Salerno who drew up the project together with the architect Antonella Manzo.

    He said the work is part of a larger research project in which the participants include, among others, La Sapienza University in Rome and Kassel University in Germany.

    In addition, the dig that was carried out in order to position the sensors also revealed some news about the history of the monument.

    "In the past, the archaeologist Dieter Mertens had theorised, based on some details of the podium, that the temple was originally planned as a peripteral of eight by 19 columns, and then replanned in a more 'modern' form with six by 14 columns," said Zuchtriegel.

    "Our excavation showed that the entire foundation effectively dates to the Late Archaic period, about a half-century before the termination of the project around 460 BC," he said.

    As with the great cathedrals of the Middle Ages, Zuchtriegel said here as well "we have to imagine a work site that continued for generations, with afterthoughts, adjustments and changes while work was underway".

    And that's not all: he said the excavation "allowed us to reconstruct how the building of the temple brought a remodelling of the surrounding landscape".

    "Prior to the start of construction, the area where the temple was to be built was levelled, but without lowering the level much lower than that of the field. Then, the foundation was placed on a thin layer of sea sand, which was therefore almost completely above the level of the field. Only later was it covered by soil, therefore creating a sort of artificial hill around the podium of the temple, which you can still see today," Zuchtriegel said.

    He said the result "once again it shows how protection and research are two sides of the same coin".

    The work to put the monitoring system into operation was financed by local patrons thanks to the government's 'Art Bonus' scheme for attracting private donations for the arts.

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