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The Somma-Vesuvius volcano has affected the landscape of Campania (Italy) for tens of thousands of years and the fate of the people living there since the Bronze Age. Important factors for settlement are the warm Mediterranean climate and the periodically replenishing fertility of the volcanic soils that favoured the establishment of settled agriculture. Today more than one million inhabitants live in the circum-Vesuvian region, making it one of the most densely populated regions in Italy. Due to the volcanic activity of Somma-Vesuvius the livelihood of the people has always been permanently threatened. Historical eruptions repeatedly represented devastating caesuras in the history of settlement of the region, as documented by numerous archaeological sites that are conserved within the volcanic stratigraphy.

One of the most well-known volcanic eruptions in history is the explosive eruption of Somma-Vesuvius in AD 79. In the course of this eruption the ancient towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum were destroyed, thousands of people died and the entire landscape of the Sarno River plain was buried in an instant by several metres of pyroclastic material. The singular situation of a sealed pre-AD 79 paleo-landscape and perfectly conserved archaeological findings enable in unparalleled manner detailed investigations of the paleotopography and the paleo-environment as well as of the ancient remains of human activity in the plain.

This multidisciplinary research project was initiated in 2006 by the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) and the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (HAW) in cooperation with the Soprintendenza Speciale Beni Archeologici Pompei, Ercolano, Stabia, the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici di Salerno, Avellino, Benevento e Caserta, the Autorità di Bacino del Sarno and specialized research institutes. Between 2009 and 2010 and between 2011 and 2016 the project was funded by the German Research Foundation DFG.

The objective is to reconstruct the ancient cultural landscape of the Sarno River plain by investigating the natural conditions and the anthropogenic influence on the landscape in the Roman period (before AD 79). This induces the cooperation of archaeology and different fields of natural and applied science such as geology, pedology, geoarchaeology, archaeometry, petrology, archaeobotany, palaeontology, dendrochronology and archaeozoology.


- In 2012 the State Museum for Prehistory in Halle(Saxony-Anhalt, Germany) hosted one of the largest exhibitions on Pompeii in recent years. Therein the SALVE research project was presented in a 3D computer animation to introduce the project to a wider and mainly non-scientific audience.

- The Italian daily newspaper ' Il Sole 24 Ore ' published an article about our geoarchaeological excavation at Scafati (by Francesco Prisco).

undefinedDeutsches Archäologisches Institut
German Archaeological Institute

undefinedHeidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften
Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities

undefinedDeutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
German Research Foundation

Cooperation Partners

Autorità di Bacino del Sarno

Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei

Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici delle Province di Salerno e Avellino

Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II