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‘Ancient Roman’ solar roof tiles power the villa of Pompeii

POMPEII — Pompeii sheds 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 feature solar photovoltaic cells, allowing the UNESCO World Heritage site to maintain its aesthetics while generating clean energy to illuminate the frescoes.

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

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

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

The plan combines emerging technologies with an extraordinary mural excavated in 1909 beneath deep layers of volcanic ash at the Villa of the Mysteries, which was buried along with the rest of the city when Mount Vesuvius erupted nearly 2,000 years ago.

The mural depicts female devotees of Dionysus – the god of wine and revelry – engaging in mysterious rituals.

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

TERRACOTTA VARNISHES

The fresco, which spans 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, without damaging the painted surfaces.