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Laser Cleaning Reveals Catacomb’s Frescoes

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Rome Domitilla catacombROME, ITALY—The Telegraph reports that 1,600-year-old frescoes in the Catacomb of St. Domitilla, the oldest and largest catacomb in Rome, have been cleaned with laser technology. The lasers used different wavelengths of light to burn away a thick layer of calcium deposits, algae, and smoke from oil lamps without damaging the colors of the frescoes. “Until recently, we weren’t able to carry out this sort of restoration—if we had done it manually we would have risked destroying the frescoes,” said project leader Barbara Mazzei. The frescoes were painted on the ceilings of two crypts built for wealthy imperial grain merchants. Some of the images record how grain arrived at the Roman port of Ostia, where it was transferred to boats that traveled the Tiber River to warehouses in the capital. Other paintings include pagan symbols for the seasons and the afterlife, and images Christ. For more, go to “Rome's Imperial Port.”

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