Robot dog in Pompeii. Image: Pompeii Archaeological Park

Spot, the robot dog, is new Health & Safety specialist at Pompeii

Culture News

A robot dog will be used to identify safety and structural issues at the Pompeii Archaeological Park. The robot will also be delving underground to inspect the tunnels of relic thieves.

Spot, as Pompeii’s robot dog is known, can inspect the smallest of spaces. At the same, it will gather and record data “useful for the study and planning of interventions”, Pompeii Archaeological Park said.

The robot will wander around the ruins of ancient Pompeii, identifying structural and safety issues. It can also delve underground to inspect tunnels dug by relic thieves.

This is the latest technology used as part of a broader project to better manage the archaeological park. This was brought about when in 2012, UNESCO threatened to add Pompeii to a list of world heritage sites in peril, unless Italian authorities improved its preservation.

The Italian authorities similarly reacted, making decisions delayed for years, when UNESCO threatened to add Venice to the ‘endangered’ listing.

The aim, the Park authorities say, is to “improve both the quality of monitoring of the existing areas, and to further our knowledge of the state of progress of the works in areas undergoing recovery or restoration, and thereby to manage the safety of the site, as well as that of workers.”

Park authorities have also experimented with a flying laser scanner capable of conducting 3D scans across the 66-hectare (163-acre) site.

Modern technology for ancient site

Gabriel Zuchtriegel, director of Pompeii Archaeological Park, said: “Technological advances in the world of robotics, in the form of artificial intelligence and autonomous systems, have produced solutions and innovations typically associated with the industrial and manufacturing world, but which until now had not found an application within archaeological sites due to the heterogeneity of environmental conditions, and the size of the site.”

Spot will also be tested for use in underground tunnels made by tombaroli, or tomb raiders. For years, the thieves made a fortune digging their way into the ruins and stealing relics.

Since 2012, Italy’s art police have upped their game, cracking down on culture crime. This has not stopped the thieves completely. Tunnels are still being found in the area around Pompeii.

“Often the safety conditions within the tunnels dug by grave robbers are extremely precarious, and so the use of a robot could signify a breakthrough that would allow us to proceed with greater speed and in total safety,” said Zuchtriegel.

Related article: USA returns stolen artefacts

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