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Italy: Pompeii's 'Cave Canem' mosaic restored
He is one of the world's most famous dogs, the snarling, black-and-white mosaic canine and protector of the Pompeii archaeological site.

Pompeii's 'Cave Canem' mosaic restored
'Cave Canem' mosaic from the entrance to the 
House of the Tragic Poet [Credit: ANSA]

Indeed, with his black hair, curled form, and bared teeth, the ancient canine has stood ready for almost 2,000 years to discourage intruders from setting foot in the Domus of the Tragic Poet, supported by the famous inscription 'Cave Canem' or 'Beware of the Dog'.

Now, this universal symbol of the city that was preserved under the ash of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD has been restored and returned to the public eye in the archaeological remains of Pompeii.

Years of rain, mud, dirt and neglect were gradually cleaned away to bring him back to public viewing just in time for the dog days at the end of July.

The work on the mosaic canine is just one in a series of measures aimed at restoring and protecting Pompeii, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for future generations, said Culture Minister Dario Franceschini.

In a post on his Twitter feed, he wrote: "Offered to the public the splendid new staging of Cave Canem". "(At) #Pompei, every day a proud step forward," wrote the minister.

The canine mosaic is now protected beneath a transparent cover designed to allow full public viewing of the mosaic mutt, with his great sense of movement as well as the realism and attention to detail that has made it one of the world's best known of the Pompeian masterpieces. Other restored works as well as extended tourist routes through the archaeological site should also be offered soon, officials suggested.

Work has been continuing at Pompeii, which for decades was neglected and even plundered due to slack security and poor protection.

At some points, the United Nations even threatened to withdraw its UNESCO World Heritage Site designation unless adequate money was invested to restore and protect Pompeii.

But, slowly things seem to be turning around.

In March Pompeii's largest house - Villa dei Misteri, famous for its frescoes of the cult of Bacchus - reopened after a two-year restoration and a three-month closure for work on its paving.

"We have behind us a year of extraordinary work," Franceschini said at that time.

"We have closed three work sites while another 13 have been opened, nine contracts have been started and we have hired 85 people". Almost precisely one year earlier, Franceschini pledged the Italian government would catch up on delays in restoring the Pompeii archaeological site and treat completing the ambitious 105-million-euro Great Pompeii Project as a "national challenge".

"The challenge of Pompeii is a challenge for the nation," Franceschini said, reiterating the importance of the Great Pompeii Project, aimed at safeguarding the unique site.

The European Commission, involved in funding the project, has insisted that the restoration work must be completed by the end of 2015.

There is some urgency.

In April 2014, heavy rains led to several reports of collapsed walls at the Pompeii site, soon after UNESCO warnings that the miraculously preserved ancient city could "completely fall apart" and lose its world heritage status unless urgent action was taken.

Source: ANSA [July 21, 2015]