A new exhibition of items from Pompeii and Herculaneum has opened at the British Museum in London. The two cities, on the Bay of Naples in southern Italy, were buried in just 24 hours by a volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. The cities were naturally preserved until they were rediscovered by archaeologists nearly 1,700 years later.
Vanessa Baldwin, the assistant curator of the Pompeii and Herculean exhibition at the British Museum, explained: “It’s all about the people, it’s about how they lived, it’s about them in their homes. It’s not about the wider city context, we’re not talking about the gladiators, or any sort of combative sports here, we’re talking about people in their homes, everyday lives, So we’re looking at wealthy businessmen and the slaves who collected the water and I think it’s very easy for people to relate to things they see in the exhibition, objects that they’re familiar with that they use everyday that the Romans used two thousand years ago.”
Owing to their different locations Pompeii and Herculaneum were buried in different ways and this has affected the preservation of materials at each site.
Unlike Pompeii, Herculaneum’s burial was so deep as to ensure building’s upper storeys remained intact, and the hotter ash preserved wooden household objects (beds, doors etc.) and even food. Excavations continue.
The exhibition “Life and death in Pompeii and Herculaneum” runs until the end of September.