Reconstruction of a Herculaneum palace’s ceiling destroyed 2000 years ago

Archaeologists reconstructed the painted ceiling of a seaside Roman palace, House of Telephus, in Herculaneum destroyed by a volcanic eruption more than 2000 years ago.

Reconstruction of the ceiling (by Herculaneum Conservation Project)

Scientists were able to restore the palace’s red, blue, yellow and green roof tiles by analysing paint traces from the recovered timber. The House of Telephus was destroyed when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD and annihilated the ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The House of the Telephus, a grand mansion, is believed to have been home to Marcus Nonius Balbus, the Roman governor of Crete.

Stages of reconstruction (by Herculaneum Conservation Project)

The palace featured a 9-metre high grand dining room with marble floors and a gilded multi-coloured ceiling. To reconstruct the room’s roof, scientists uploaded the intricate pieces of timber to a computer using a 3D scanner. his process allowed researchers to discover that the timbers of the dining room’s roof were built into an inverted V-shape and were cut so precisely that no nails were required to hold them in place.  Researchers started by analysing traces of paint found on the excavated timber to understand how what colours the gilded roof tiles would have been painted. Only one third of the roof was reconstructed as half of the house is under 13 metres of volcanic rock that has not yet been excavated.

Wooden ceiling tile from Herculaneum (by Herculaneum Conservation Project)


(after Daily Mail Online & Herculaneum Conservation Project)

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