Italy’s major archeological site, Pompeii, is soon to be under the supervision of German-born archeologist Gabriel Zuchtriegel. The 39-year-old will take over as director at the ancient Roman city that was devastated by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD. Zuchtriegel plans to shake things up with some state-of-the-art technology, but the innovative approaches haven’t pleased everyone.
Beating 43 other candidates, Zuchtriegel was announced as the new director of Pompeii, one of the most important archeological sites in the world, on Saturday. Zuchtriegel was born in Germany but has had dual Italian citizenship since 2020. He holds a Ph.D. in classical archaeology from Bonn University and previously managed Italy’s Greek temple site of Paestum. During the announcement of the new appointment, culture minister Dario Franceschini said, “I chose Gabriel Zuchtriegel because he did an incredible job in Paestum. Now it is a model thanks to him. I’m sure he will do very well in Pompeii too.”
The archeologist will now assume the four-year post as director of the Pompeii Archeological Park, taking over from Massimo Osanna who will become director-general of Italy’s state museums. “It’s my life’s dream and a great responsibility,” Zuchtriegel said. “Pompeii is special not only for its priceless archaeological heritage, but also for the team of professionals and employees who work on the site with great commitment and competence.”
Despite Franceschini’s praise, Zuchtriegel’s proposed management methods have ruffled feathers. Pompeii’s new director intends to use drones, satellites and infrared sensors to assist in supervising the site. Such an approach seems to have alarmed two members of the site’s scientific committee. The Times reports that Irene Bragantini, a 73-year-old Neapolitan archaeologist, and Stefano De Caro, a 70-year-old former official at Italy’s culture ministry, have resigned their positions on the committee in protest.
In spite of these oppositions, Zuchtriegel’s fresh approach could be just what the site needs. Italy has been striving to reinvigorate its culture sector with some foreign talent since 2015. In fact, Zuchtriegel’s appointment at Paestum was part of this push for fresh ideas and management.
Pompeii has not always had a good track record in terms of conservation. Poor management and deterioration from lack of maintenance have previously risked the withdrawal of European Union funding for the site.
However, the site’s outgoing director Osanna impressed with the ground-breaking finds unveiled under his management, and Zuchtriegel will hope to maintain this momentum. Recently, stunningly well-preserved remains of a tavern came to light. Vibrant frescoes of animals decorate the counter inside and food remains were found in earthenware bowls.