A brief overview of archaeology.
With its rich historical, artistic and archaeological heritage, Italy has created many methodological experiences and reflections, embodied by leading figures of Italian culture; these are difficult to sum up in a few words, but have given the country a leading international role in the fields of archaeology, cultural heritage protection and restoration.
For centuries, Italy has attracted travellers, pilgrims and scholars who have visited the country and brought back the Greek-Roman culture to their homelands, for example, favouring the development of aesthetic models based on classicism, in relation to which Johann Winckelmann was the greatest theorist, studies of art and ancient history, as well as epigraphy and numismatics.
The ‘Grand Tour’ represents this constant flow of Italy-bound characters very well, and the legs of their journey have been enriched over time with the discovery and study of important sites such as Herculaneum (1738) and Pompeii (1748), in the Kingdom of Naples, the excavation of which was promoted by King Charles III of Bourbon.
Archaeological discoveries and acquisitions of private collections led to the creation of several museums, such as the Capitoline Museums (1734), the Pio-Clementino museum or the Royal Bourbon Museum (1816), which inherited the collections commissioned by Charles III and Ferdinand IV of Bourbon during the previous century. Important archaeologists and art historians such as Johann Winckelmann, Giovanni Battista Visconti and Ennio Quirino Visconti, the father of philological archaeology, are linked to the creation of these institutions.
Continuous archaeological discoveries and excavations of sites, often done in secret, led to an increase in the works of art and historical-artistic artefacts that were collected by individuals or owned by the rulers at the time; however, this work also created the basis for regulatory innovations to protect archaeological and artistic heritage, as can be seen through the advanced papal legislation of the early nineteenth century. Through the deed drawn up by Carlo Fea in 1802, followed by the deed by the cardinal chamberlain Bartolomeo Pacca in 1820, this papal legislation laid the foundations for the protection and census of the artistic heritage belonging to the Papal State, going on to become a model for the other states prior to Italian unification.
Legislation to protect cultural heritage continued to be of importance even after the unification of Italy; a recent example of this is the Cultural Heritage and Landscape Code (2004).