La Dolce Vita: … Bulldozed! Austerity cuts hit Italy’s archeological patrimony – “Gladiator’s” tomb to be … RE-buried


The mausoleum of Marcus Nonius Macrinus unearthed in 2008, in an industrial neighborhood in Rome, might be re-buried due to austerity cuts…

Italy’s financial woes are yet to be fully experienced, this must be stated upfront. The technocratic (that means UNelected) government of Mario Monti is having a hard time whipping Italy into gear. Monti has said he quits (another Berlusconi candidature is actually being discussed…) It appears the changes required for Italy’s fiscal cure are possibly too much – that some of the things that need changing are the core of Italy itself (and what helped make Italy what it is – and the Dolce Vita, so … sweet.) And so last week Super Mario declared that he would step down – but not after “reforming” (read chopping up) Italy’s Public Health system. Mr. Monti’s background as a Professor … and Goldman Sacks frontman, his cool demeanor in the face of harsh austerity measures meant to stimulate Italy’s economy – and bring it in line with its more fiscally conservative neighbors to the north – have made him a controversial figure from the start. But then again looky who Prez Obama put in place to “fix” America’s banking problem and you see that Italy is ever the faithful lap dog … er faithful partner.

Enough politicking – much has been written – and more comprehensively on the subject elsewhere, let’s focus on the hard facts of the issue in question. Italy’s funds for the maintenance of its archeological sites was slashed by 20% in 2010 due to the aforementioned austerity cuts, and the country, which is really an open air museum, finds itself unable to properly care for its historic treasures. This post won’t go into the neglect that saw the collapse of important parts of Pompeii in recent times, rather we look at the fate befalling one Imperial-era tomb, the tomb of one Marcus Nonius Macrinus, one of the bolder Roman generals whose successful campaigns in the 2nd century served as inspiration for Russel Crowe’s “Gladiator.”

Mariarosaria Barbera, the country’s state superintendent for archeology tells The Observer that the only solution seems the RE-burial of the impressive structure unearthed in 2008. That is unless the site can find a sponsor – they’re looking for a measly 2 to 3 million euros. Re-burying ancient treasures, to protect them from the elements, pollution and the busy hands of antiquities robbers, has become more common in Italy, as the funding cuts take effect, this is just a more dramatic example as the treasure in question is an extraordinary example of a tomb of a powerful – and rich – Roman general. Darius Arya, an American archeologist fighting to prevent the bulldozers’ spades dirty work is quoted in the article asking “Burying these remains is a disaster – you wonder what is the point of archeology.” Well, the point of a lot of things remains elusive in what is the crown jewel of the Mediterranean, be it archeology, politics or the current austerity measures.

“Over 40% of our archeological sites are now closed due to lack of funds,” continues Barbera, “Inspectors often cannot even get to the more remote sites in their cars because the ministry won’t give them petrol and there is less money for guards to keep looters out.” There’s uncounted other great discoveries just under the surface, in Rome and in Italy, it’s, claims Barbera, “a goldmine we may never get to see.”

We link to an interesting post on the finding – and to an interesting post on the re-burying of the general’s tomb, from the History Blog.


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