‘Ancient Roman’ solar roof tiles power Pompeii villa – TODAY

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POMPEII — Pompeii is shining a light on the mysterious rites of ancient Rome thanks to terracotta-style solar roof tiles installed on one of its most famous villas.

The traditional-looking tiles have solar photovoltaic cells inside, allowing the Unesco World Heritage Site to preserve its aesthetics while generating clean energy to illuminate its frescoes.

And though the project is in its early stages, experts say the tiles could one day help historic city centres across Italy turn green.

The tiles look “exactly the same as the ancient (Roman) ones”, found in archaeological sites and cities across the Mediterranean, Pompeii director Gabriel Zuchtriegel told AFP.

But while “Pompeii is a unique site due to its vast size and complexity… I hope this will not be a unique project,” said Mr Zuchtriegel, who wants the site near Naples to be a “real-life lab for sustainability”.

The scheme weds emerging technologies with an extraordinary mural unearthed in 1909 under deep layers of volcanic ash at the Villa of the Mysteries, which was buried along with the rest of the city when Vesuvius erupted nearly 2,000 years ago.

The mural depicts female devotees of Dionysus — the god of wine and revelry — engaged in mysterious rites.

They have intrigued scholars for decades, with some historians suggesting they are evidence that the lady of the villa was a priestess whose slaves took part in cult rituals.


The fresco, which covers three walls and is one of the best preserved in Pompeii, is illuminated by special LED lights designed to bring the deep red, purple and gold images to life, while not damaging the painted surfaces.

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