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Herculaneum had garbage problems
December 27th, 2006

One of the most serius problem that Naples and its surroundings is facing since years is the garbage destruction. According to the latests discoveries the same problem was sufferend in ancient times in Herculaneum very close to Naples.
Using the non-destructive technology infrared reflectography, researchers have brought to light a couple of inscriptions against garbage dumping in the ancient Roman town. As appeared recently on a Discovery Channel news.
The curious discovery is about a public notice found on the eastern side of the city's water tank as announced by Luciano Rosario Maria Vicari, director of an applied optics laboratory at Naples University.
The board for these kind of notices consisted of a plastered rectangular area that housed the tituli picti some painted inscriptions used to communicate decrees and measures. 

These inscriptions were painted in black and carefully placed on straight parallel lines carved on the plaster. 
"The plastered area worked as a blackboard the previous inscriptions were wiped with a thin plaster layer to make space to a new inscription," Vicari told to Discovery News. 
Other inscriptions were found during the latest century as example the decree by the magistrate Alficius Paulus against the dumping of waste. 
Matteo Della Corte, who discovered it, realized there was a second inscription on the plaster layer underneath, and tried in vain to bring it to light. In fact painted inscriptions fade quicky in the sun and rain, once exposed. 
"Indeed, the ink was almost gone and the plaster was seriously damaged. But infrared reflectography has succeed in recovering that lost inscription, showing that we can apply this technology to other sites in Herculaneum and Pompeii," Vicari said.
The inscription below was another decree against garbage dumping in the area around the water tank. It was issued by two joint magistrates, Rufellius Romanus and Tetteius Severus.
"The authorities were very strict" said Vicari. "Transgressors, if free citizens, would have had to pay a fine. Lashes were reserved for slaves who infringed the rule."
"The town's social makeup was rather different from Pompeii's. But the fact that 'no dumping' decrees were repeated over and over on the board, means that this was a serious problem in the town," Herculaneum scholar Mario Pagano told Discovery News.
Vicari also found a third inscription, which has yet to be decoded. Most likely, it was made by a passer-by, as the water tank was close to a market, Vicari said.
"This is important research," said Pagano. "Inscriptions in Pompeii abound, but they consist mainly of electoral notices. The finding in Herculaneum, on the contrary, is rather unique."

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