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Google Maps, Lasers Reveal Vatican Catacombs 84

Nerval's Lobster writes "The Vatican, while notoriously secretive about things buried in its vaults and archives, is being as public as the digital age allows it to be about the nearly completed restoration of catacombs early Christians used as secret churches as well as burial sites. Contractors, archaeologists and art experts spent the past five years restoring the Priscilla catacombs under the Vatican using lasers, among other techniques, to restore frescoes painted on the walls of the burial chambers. The Vatican unveiled the work Nov. 19 with a press conference in the Basilica of San Silvestro outside the burial tunnels, accompanied by a virtual tour of the Priscilla catacombs provided by Google Maps. The basilica is divided into an area for religious services and another that acts as a deposit for sculptures and artifacts dug up during excavations of the catacombs and other areas underneath the Vatican."
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Google Maps, Lasers Reveal Vatican Catacombs

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  • Tom Hanks needs the cash, Da Vinci Code Part 2, coming up!

    • Re:About time... (Score:5, Informative)

      by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @03:42AM (#45470675)

      Tom Hanks needs the cash, Da Vinci Code Part 2, coming up!

      I guess you missed Angels and Demons [imdb.com] when it came out three years later?

      Although, it should be noted that they changed the order of the plots for the film adaptations. The Da Vinci Code is originally the second book in the series after Angels and Demons.

      • by QQBoss ( 2527196 )

        Ah, crud, yeah, I heard about the book, but I have been living in China since just before it came out and don't pay much attention to decadent Western media. ;-)

        • by unitron ( 5733 )

          Ah, crud, yeah, I heard about the book, but I have been living in China since just before it came out and don't pay much attention to decadent Western media. ;-)

          But that's the best kind!

      • by khallow ( 566160 )

        The Da Vinci Code is originally the second book in the series after Angels and Demons.

        I heard Da Vinci Code was just a rewrite of the story of Angels and Demons, and is basically the same story with somewhat different elements. And the latter was published only because the former did so well.

        All I can say is that it was rather challenging to suspend disbelief when I was reading Angels and Demons due to the contrived plot devices (I counted at least three deux ex machinas that were integral to the plot) and several telegraphed plot twists.

        • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

          They do have very similar overall plots. I think Angels and Demons was slightly better. Today DaVinci Code is likely the more successful of the two because of Oprah's Book Club making it one of their reads, and then the media/religious right getting all up in arms with how it portrayed the Catholic Church. I don't think Oprah had people read the first novel.

          I just found out last night there is now a fourth book in the series -- published just this year. I don't recall liking the third novel as much as the f

    • Tom Hanks needs the cash, Da Vinci Code Part 2, coming up!

      Yeah, because Captain Phillips has only raked in $100M (great show, BTW, and Hanks does an awesome job).

  • That would be not only awesome but soo unexpected!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      That would be not only awesome but soo unexpected!

      The one thing that kept popping into my head while moving around the Google view was "Wow, they've really improved the graphics in Dungeons of Dreadmor, haven't they?"

      You are in a catacomb. To the North is a locked gate, to the East is a small chamber, to the South is a long hall with wooden benches, and West is a narrow passageway.

      - Move West

      You are in a narrow passageway. To the North is a narrow passageway, to the East is a large hall. There are Tourists here.

      - Hit Tourist with brochure

      You can't do th

      • You are in a narrow passageway. To the North is a narrow passageway, to the East is a large hall. There are Tourists here.

        - Hit Tourist with brochure

        You've been eaten by a grue.


  • by volvox_voxel ( 2752469 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @03:56AM (#45470719)
    I wandered around via the virtual tour, but all the shelves were empty. .. I wonder what happened to the remains? It was curious to read the graffiti of names and dates, and the ancient signs on the wall but wasn't able to recognize all the writing, It looked like their was more than one language used for the official lettering. I saw dates like 1862, 1920, 1952, etc . Graffiti has been a part of human experience for a long time, and is one way historians can estimate how literate the average population was of an ancient civilization.. Did you know that we have access to the words and thoughts of the citizens of Pompeii and Herculaneum?
    • by giorgist ( 1208992 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @05:09AM (#45470933)
      The writing you could not decipher was Greek
      • by Dodgy G33za ( 1669772 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @06:57AM (#45471275)

        Did it say "I for one welcome our roman overlords?"

      • by unitron ( 5733 )

        The writing you could not decipher was Greek

        It's all Greek to me.

        : - )

      • The writing in the catacombs shown in the link you mean? It looks closer to the Byzantine script than Greek proper: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_minuscule [wikipedia.org] Notice that the script in the catacomb tour contains a letter that looks like a Latin "C" Greek (ancient and modern) doesn't have such a character. It was, however, present in the Byzantine script.
        • by cervesaebraciator ( 2352888 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @12:22PM (#45473295)

          There's nothing particularly Byzantine about that letter that looks like a "C". It's called a lunate sigma [wikipedia.org] and it's been around since the Hellenistic period. And the scripts written in the crypts are not miniscule; they're very decidedly majuscule. One is rather unlikely to find Greek written in miniscule in a 2nd-4th c. Roman catacomb, given that Greek miniscule would not be invented for another five centuries.

          Now, if you happen to have a little Greek, you might have come to the conclusion that these scripts must be Byzantine since your Attic Greek textbook uses letters that look quite different. But the fact is that modern printed Greek, whether classical, koine, or Byzantine, uses a post-classical script. With the invention of printing, printers created a miniscule script similar to that found in the Byzantine manuscripts they were using. Unless you're working specifically on paleography, none of your textbooks or printed editions are going to use a classical script.

    • by cusco ( 717999 )

      There is even graffiti from the masons who built the Egyptian pyramids, and on many ancient monuments you can see the mark of the individual stone masons on different pieces of construction signing their portion of the work. In two of the cathedrals in Spain, Santiago and another one (Salamanca?), I saw the mark of the same mason (or perhaps family of masons) on multiple columns.

      • In the case of those Cathedrals, I'd assume it's the mark of their guild. Wasn't the guild system popular around that time period for such work?
        • by cusco ( 717999 )

          Different areas in the cathedral have different marks which, according to the staff at the Catederal de Santiago, signified the team that built that section of wall or column. The Stone Mason Guild would have been responsible for all the work crews, I'm not sure if there were a different guild responsible for the details and decorations in the stonework but I don't think so.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Are the "lasers" attached to sharks?

  • by dtjohnson ( 102237 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @09:25AM (#45471843)
    St. Peter's square is the site of the old "Circus of Nero" chariot racing track. The roman's (emperor Nero) martyred St. Peter along the "spine" of the old chariot racing track in 67 as entertainment for the chariot race attendees and then buried the body in a little cemetery located next to the track (which was handily located to clear out the victim(s) from the night before to prepare for the new day's activity.) St. Peter was held in high esteem by the early Christians of that time and they secretly excavated near his burial site in order to construct a memorial shrine, to have a place for Christian worship, and to allow other Christians of the time to be buried near St. Peter as they were martyred. As the centuries passed, and Christians were no longer persecuted, churches were built over the site of St. Peter's burial, leading to the newest one, the present St. Peter's basilica which was constructed approximately 400 years ago. St. Peter's grave is located directly under what is now the altar.
    • And the obelisk in Saint Peter's Square was "acquired" in Egypt by the Romans to decorate the spina. Later some pope decided that it would suit very well his new square.

  • Reminds me of Ultima Underworld (or Eye of the Beholder, or Dungeon Hack, or whatever).
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The Priscllla Catacombs are off Via Salaria, near the big park that has Villa Ada in it. A good half hour walk, at least, from the Vatican. All of the catacombs are "outside the wall" in any case.

    Perhaps they mean "under the control and supervision of the Vatican"?

    • People are sloppy in the use of the term "Vatican". A good example of this is in one of the sorriest books written by a modern, professional historian [wikipedia.org]. The author constantly and annoyingly uses "Vatican" as a metonym for the papacy when talking about a period centuries before anyone would have so employed the term.
      • War on metonyms! From now on, you decree that nobody must ever refer to Microsoft as "Redmond" or to any of the various organizations of the U.S. government as "Washington". Let's end the richness of the English language here and now!

        Back to reality. The Roman Catholic Church itself uses the term Vatican as a metonym.

        • Um... I didn't say using Vatican as a metonym was wrong. I only object to doing so when it's anachronistic, especially in what purports to be a work about history. It's like talking about the American war for independence as a battle between Washington D.C. and London.

          The language does not become richer by the sloppy use of poetic language. In fact, I agree with Orwell in "Politics and the English Language" [github.io] that using figures of speech after we've lost a sense of the what the figure indicates does not enr

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