In 79 CE the eruption of Vesuvius buried the towns of Herculaneum and Pompeii (1) under many metres of ash and other volcanic debris. Both towns were effectively frozen in time and many features preserved until Pompeii was rediscovered in the sixteenth century and Herculaneum in the early eighteenth century (see CHEMISTRY REVIEW Vol. 33. No. 1).
Processes for conserving and interpreting the ancient artworks (2, 3, main image) in Herculaneum and Pompeii have emerged, first by trial and error and later from scientific research. Nowadays, when visitors go home in the evening, high-energy ultraviolet radiation provides a chemical-free way to destroy biological growth on wall paintings (4).
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