The Submerged Archaeological Park of Baia "From commercial port to protected marine area"
On 30 January 2007 an agreement was signed between the superintendency for the archaeological heritage of the provinces of Naples and Caserta and the temporary association of companies Assodiving Flegreum represented by the Centro Sub Campi Flegrei for the concession and relative regulation of underwater visits in the Submerged Archaeological Park of Baia. On 7 August 2007, the Assodiving Flegreum association became the Assodiving Flegreum Campanian Consortium.
Subsequently the Campi Flegrei become Special Superintendency called "Archaeological Park of the Phlegraean Fields" to which the definitive management of the Submerged Archaeological Park of Baia is entrusted. Underwater and surface visits entrusted to diving centers and other tour operators.
The Phlegraean Fields: the history
To retrace the main stages of the long journey that led to the establishment of the park, it is first necessary to explain why this area is now below sea level.
We are in Campi Flegrei (from the Greek burning earth). In this area of volcanic origin there is the phenomenon of bradyseism, it consists of a elevation (positive bradyseism) or lowering of the ground level (negative bradyseism) relatively slow on the human time scale but very fast compared to geological times. Sometimes, as happens in the Campi Flegrei, these movements can be repeated in a cyclical manner over a period of centuries.
Generally this phenomenon is due to changes in the volume of a magma chamber close to the surface which empties and fills up, or also to changes in heat that affect the volume of water contained in the very porous subsoil. Due to the phenomenon of bradyseism the ancient coastal strip suffered a sinking with the consequent submergence of all the buildings that were built there. Sites of great importance in Roman times, where Pozzuoli was the most famous commercial city, Baia the most famous residential location and Miseno the seat of the military fleet, are now submerged. The first findings of archaeological finds took place in the 1920s where sculptures, architectural elements, aquarian fistulae with imperial stamps were brought to light on the occasion of the expansion of the quay of the port.
In the 40s through aerial photos taken by the pilot Raimondo Baucher was highlighted in the mirror in front of Lake Lucrino the submerged archaeological area of Portus Julius.
Despite the interest aroused by these discoveries, the first underwater archaeological survey campaign was launched in the waters of Baia in the 1960s. These investigations led between 1959 and 1960 to the drafting of the first archaeological map of the submerged city of Baia. A paved road flanked by buildings that opened onto it was detected near Punta Epitaffio at about -6 meters deep, one of them will be detected two decades later, the nymphaeum of the emperor Claudius, and then continuing towards the Largo other remains of structures jutting out into the sea by means of cementitious castings (today we know that they are pertinent to the maritime quarter of the Pisoni villa). Finally, the identification of some concrete pillars, the Pilae, about 400 meters from the coast, which allowed the identification of the ancient coastline. Unfortunately, the program was soon interrupted due to a lack of resources.
Underwater Archeology in Baia
1969 marked two important stages for underwater archeology and the protection of the Baia area.
The first, causal, with the outcrop in front of Punta Epitaffio, following a storm, of two sculptures of great quality that were recognized as "Ulysses and companion with the wineskin", still in their place in the apse of a rectangular building (the Nymphaeum).
The second stage was the agreement between the superintendent of Naples Alfonso De Francis and the Director of the military orphanage, housed in the Castle of Baia, of to assign part of this complex to the seat of the archaeological museum of the Phlegraean Fields.
Despite a lot of resonance, not even these two important stages managed to achieve an immediate following.
Only in 1980 was the first underwater excavation carried out directly by archaeologists, which led to the identification of the Nymphaeum of Emperor Claudius and its extraordinary sculptural complex.
In 1984 the Baia Castle and started a restoration project for functional interventions: a local archaeological office was set up, a first restoration laboratory for archaeological deposits. It was thus possible to begin the first experimental restoration interventions on the sculptures from the excavation of the Nymphaeum of Punta Epitaffio. In 1997 the room of the Nymphaeum of Punta Epitaffio was set up inside the museum where the submerged nymphaeum of the emperor Claudius is reproduced, which is close to the original, but it is not a reconstruction.
In the same period the survey of the submerged city of Baia resumed, where it had been suspended by Nino Lamboglia, by G. Di Fraia, E. Scognamiglio and N. Lombardi.
The edition of the archaeological map of submerged Bay dates back to them with the positioning of the buildings emerging from the seabed, located on the northern shore, better preserved as they are less traveled by trade routes. This is the access channel to the Baianus Lacus, the Roman period water mirror similar to a lake; of a spa complex 40 meters east of Punta Epitaffio, of the Pisoni villa; a villa with a porch entrance and splendid floor decorations, facing a stretch of road, flanked by tabernae, the remains of fish ponds and piers.
On the southern shore, in the part in front of the shipyards and the quay of the port, due to the devastating effect of the port traffic, only a few remains of buildings are preserved, while proceeding towards the sea imposing stretches of a concrete quay pier, perpendicular to the large Roman pier, protected by some pilae, with remains of foundations in formwork with exceptionally preserved wooden sections.
To the south of the tip of Castello di Baia, which is located outside the port area, thanks also to the greater depth, there are the remains of spectacular fish ponds for the breeding of fish and molluscs.
In 1987 the archaeological constraint of the marine belt of 500 meters of the entire Phlegraean area was placed with the prohibition to alter the state of the places.
Between 1994 and 1998 specific ordinances were issued by the harbor master's office to regulate the transit of commercial motor vessels.
In 1998 the superintendency took over the stretch of water on the northern shore.
In 1999 the first visit itinerary for divers was created.
In 2000, due to serious damage caused by a ferry running aground in the seabed, the commercial port activity was definitively suspended.
Establishment of the Submerged Archaeological Park of Baia
August 7, 2002 the Submerged Archaeological Park of Baia was established, equivalent to a protected marine area.
The provisional management of the submerged park has been entrusted to the Superintendence for the archaeological heritage of Naples and Caserta. Subsequently the Campi Flegrei became the Special Superintendency called the Archaeological Park of the Phlegraean Fields which was entrusted with the definitive management of the Submerged Archaeological Park of Baia. Underwater and surface visits entrusted to diving centers and other tour operators.