Stories tagged Herculaneum

Jun
17
2011

An explorer of the past!: But aren't we all?
An explorer of the past!: But aren't we all?Courtesy cobalt123
Beneath the remains of a Roman-era, three-story apartment building in the destroyed city of Herculaneum, archaeologists have found a king’s ransom in brown gold.

(Herculaneum, by the way, was a neighboring city to Pompeii, and it was likewise destroyed and buried in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D.)

I don’t want to get in trouble for corrupting young minds (again), so I can’t tell you straight out what the “brown gold” is. But let it be known that this rich seam is telling archaeologists a lot about what the ancient residents of Herculaneum ate. Also, it rhymes with “trap.”

Recovered from an 86-meter-long septic tank-like section of sewer, the ancient, compacted gold fills over 770 bags, and seems to indicate that the buildings’ former residents, despite their low- or middle-class status, had a surprisingly varied diet. They ate fish, vegetables, fruit, eggs, olives, walnuts, sea urchins, and lots of figs. Also, they ate dormice, which is simply adorable.

Archaeologists working at the site say that it’s lucky that the gold wasn’t discovered before, because the technology for analyzing the material wasn’t available until relatively recently. Also they just didn’t appreciate this sort of thing back then.*

*This last statement is based on how I imagine my grandmother would react if I explained the discovery to her. Fortunately she’s dead, so it probably won’t come up.

Jul
26
2009

Pompeii update


Pompeii: The Pompeia at Saratoga Springs is a restored version of the House of Pansa, which was destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79. This photo is from 1889!Courtesy Cornell University Library
My wife often relates to friends that the Pompeii exhibit at the Science Museum Of Minnesota was her favorite. Buried in A.D. 79 by a volcano's eruption, the secrets of Pompeii remained under 20 ft of ash until discovered in 1748. Since then about two-thirds of the city has been exposed.

What many people think about when you ask them about Pompeii, is a city frozen in time when it was suddenly buried.

Cambridge University's Mary Beard, author of The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found says that,

"The ground trembled for weeks beforehand. Only the infirm, the stupid and the optimists stayed."
Rather than a city frozen in time, as scholars have described Pompeii, it was an emptied disaster scene, goods removed and doors locked, when Vesuvius covered the town with ash.

Pompeii preserved the best of the best

What impressed me about the the Pompeii exhibit was the architecture, the interior designs, and the art objects. Pompeii was where the richest, most powerful Roman elite set up summer homes which became like stage creations, re-creating Greek art and Macedonian palaces to show off their status among their peers.

What remains to be uncovered?

What might be found under the remaining yet uncovered ruins. According to architectural historian Thomas Howe of Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas:

Still buried under Vesuvius' cooled lava are parts of both Pompeii and Herculaneum; Oplontis, a villa that might have belonged to the emperor Nero's wife; and Stabiae, a site that Howe says is "the largest concentration of excellently preserved enormous Roman villas in the entire Mediterranean world."

We are lucky that some artifacts are still buried

I think it fortunate that maybe some of the best might be uncovered last. Once exposed, the "ruins quickly become ruined". Weather, weeds, tourists, and looters take a drastic tole upon the beautiful artifacts. The Italian government last year declared a state of emergency to speed preservation efforts at the 109-acre ruin. Rather than starting new excavations at Pompeii and nearby sites, Pompeii superintendent, Pietro Giovanni Guzzo, has concentrated on conservation.

Read "Blogging Pompeii"

Thanks to Google translate, you can keep up with what is going on. The web site Blogging Pompeii is:

... for all those who work on Pompeii and the other archaeological sites of the Bay of Naples. Here we share news and information about Pompeii and the other sites, and we discuss current research. Here we share news and information about Pompeii and the other sites, and we discuss current research.

Learn more about Pompeii

Dec
04
2007

Roman throne: This isn't the actual find, but archaeologists near Pompeii have unearthed what is believed to be the oldest known throne from the Roman empire. The new find is throne made of wood and depicts scenes from Greek mythology.
Roman throne: This isn't the actual find, but archaeologists near Pompeii have unearthed what is believed to be the oldest known throne from the Roman empire. The new find is throne made of wood and depicts scenes from Greek mythology.Courtesy mharrsch
Once or twice a week, I get to work in the Pompeii exhibit currently here at the Science Museum of Minnesota. And during most shifts, at least once I’m asked if they’re still finding items buried in the rubble from the volcanic explosion that hit the coastal Italian city in the year 79 A.D.

The short answer is “yes.”

The longer answer is that archaeologists this fall uncovered what they believe to be the first Roman throne. The throne was found at an excavation of Herculaneum, a small city that was buried along with Pompeii when Mount Vesuvius erupted.

Items that were found were only two legs and portion of the back of the throne, but it’s a one-of-a-kind find. The only other depictions of Roman thrones from that era that researchers have previously found have been in works of art from that period.

The throne was found 82 feet below the surface of Herculaneum in a house that is thought to have belonged to Julius Caesar’s father-in-law. The throne is adorned with images from Greek mythology along with pine cones and phalluses.

And this is really only the start of the learning process. The throne remains will now go through a restoration process while archaeologists continue digging at the site to find out if there are any other treasures buried there.

What to learn more about what's currently happening in the Pompeii region? Here's a link to the official website of the archeology organization that's conducting the excavations.