Stories tagged Pompeii

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.

Slower destruction of Pompeii: This famous painting depicts the sudden destruction of Pompeii, Italy, some 2,000 years ago. Sustained rains are now destroying some of the archeological sites there these days.
Slower destruction of Pompeii: This famous painting depicts the sudden destruction of Pompeii, Italy, some 2,000 years ago. Sustained rains are now destroying some of the archeological sites there these days.Courtesy Wikipedia
Several years ago, the Science Museum of Minnesota hosted a well-received exhibit on Pompeii, Italy. The ancient city was buried under a blast of volcanic ash and gases. Torrential rains in recent weeks are now claiming some of the leftover ruins there. You can read all about it here.

Pompeii ruins street view: Visit the Pompeii ruins via Google Maps street view.
Pompeii ruins street view: Visit the Pompeii ruins via Google Maps street view.Courtesy Google Maps
You can now visit the Pompeii ruins via Google maps "street view". The link takes you to an overhead view. Click on the "A" and then click on "street view". You can zoom in or out and look around using your mouse movements. To walk down the streets click on ovals further up the road or on the arrowheads.

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

Mount Vesuvius and Naples
Mount Vesuvius and NaplesCourtesy Mark Wales
Residents of Naples had thoughts of Pompeii flashing through their minds yesterday when Italian F-16s flying nearby created sonic booms while flying to intercept a nearby unidentified aircraft. Residents jammed the phone lines to the city's eruption hotline.

Several million people live in areas that could be affected by Vesuvius, making it one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world.

Geologists predict that at least 300,000 people would be killed should Vesuvius erupt without ample warning for evacuation. A recent computer simulation used to model an eruption shows that residents to the south of Vesuvius, in the direction of Pompeii and Herculaneum, will have little chance to survive a blast like the one that buried these towns in 79 AD.

Sep
11
2008

Thing of the past?: New studies show that the likelihood of a major eruption of Mount Vesuvius, like this computer image of the infamous blast of 79 A.D., are decreasing.
Thing of the past?: New studies show that the likelihood of a major eruption of Mount Vesuvius, like this computer image of the infamous blast of 79 A.D., are decreasing.Courtesy Wikipedia
About a year ago visitors at the Science Museum of Minnesota learned about the disaster that struck Pompeii, Italy, when Mount Vesuvius erupted, wiping out the city and a lot of its residents in the span of just about a day.

Today, about three million people are living within range of a Vesuvius eruption. But the good news from geologists is that they may be under lessened risk for a devastating eruption like the one that hit in 79 A.D.

A new study shows that the volcano’s magma reservoir has been rising up closer to the Earth’s surface over the past 20,000 years. At that higher level, the magma is likely to produce less violent eruptions.

That magma has actually moved quite a bit. Between the huge Pompeii-devastating eruption and another one in the year 472 A.D., the magma pool climbed about 2.5 miles toward Earth’s surface.

But that doesn’t mean people can sleep totally at peace in the volcano’s neighborhood, experts advise. Other factors also play into the severity of a volcano eruption, including tectonic plate shift and the deposit distribution of the magma, factors that weren’t part of this new study.

No, not by a volcano but by poor maintenance. Many of the priceless artifacts recovered from the ancient Roman city have been damaged. The Italian government has declared a "state of emergency" to preserve what remains.

I thought our Pompeii exhibit that recently was here at SMM was about as close as you could get to being in Pompeii without going there. Now I've found this video about how you can experience it even better without going to Italy. Click and enjoy.

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.

Oct
18
2007

Join us tonight for the Pompeii Adult Lecture: The Final Hours.

The Final Hours
Dr. Connie Rodriguez
Associate Professor and Department Chair of Classical Studies at Loyola of New Orleans
Thursday, October 18, 2007
7:00-9:00 PM

Dr. Rodriguez, visiting curator of the A Day in Pompeii exhibit, presents the final hours of Pompeii as related in letters by Pliny the Younger, who watched events unfold from a safe distance at Misenum. He tells of his uncle, Pliny the Elder, who was in charge of the Roman fleet stationed on the Bay of Naples and who met his death during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.

Tickets for each Pompeii lecture are $12 per person ($8 per Science Museum member). Lectures will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Science Museum's auditorium on level 3. For more information or to reserve tickets, call (651) 221-9444.