Image: Broken column
AP
A column lies in pieces on the grounds of an ancient Roman villa on Wednesday, within a closed section of the Pompeii archaeological site.
updated 3/21/2007 10:15:09 PM ET 2007-03-22T02:15:09

A huge column in the garden of an ancient Roman villa at Pompeii was toppled in what officials said Wednesday was an act of vandalism.

"This isn't a simple act of vandalism, which, while bad enough, could be explained by ignorance," superintendent Giovanni Guzzo said, calling it "an act of intimidation."

Spokeswoman Francesca de Lucia said the sheer force needed to topple the large column, which broke into at least five large pieces, suggested that the perpetrators were trying to make a statement.

Authorities were investigating possible motives, including disgruntled employees, but had not ruled out an accidental cause despite the effort needed to make the column fall, she said.

The damage was discovered Monday. Officials at Pompeii believe the vandals broke into the closed excavation of the villa over the weekend and apparently climbed up scaffolding to push over the column from above.

Experts who examined the column said it can be restored and put back into its proper place, the statement said.

The ancient city of Pompeii was buried by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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