Thursday, 16 May 2013

Dead cities

Today, we go over to Pompeii and...
August 24, 79 AD must have been a heck of a morning. Over the previous couple of weeks, there had been some earthquakes that caused some buildings to fall down. On the 23rd, Pompeii held Vulcanalia, the festival of the Roman God of fire (not to be confused with anything associated with Star Trek). Then Vesuvius blew it's stack, covering Pompeii with 3 m of stuff. Then a pyroclastic flow came down and laid another 3 m. Then a second pyroclastic flow came down at speeds of ~80 km/hr, adding another 3 m of stuff.

Bye bye two cities and everyone in them.
Wrong place, wrong time 
Doubt he was napping 
Probably not asleep either 
The faces tell no tales
Two days. Two cities. Buried for 1750 years. And then they were found, one by a dude digging a well in a farmyard, one while digging a channel for a drainage ditch. And oh, what was found.

They found shops and bars.
Bar, Herculaneum 
Bar, Pompeii
Grist mill, Pompeii 
Wine amophora, Pompeii 
Oven, Pompeii 
Bar, Herculaneum 
Vats, Pompeii
They found baths and floor mosaics.
In home bath, Herculaneum 
Racks to put your clothes. Herculaneum 
Bath house mosaic floor. Herculaneum 
More mosaic work. Herculaneum 
House entrance decoration. Pompeii 
Amazing shelf supports. Pompeii 
Marble bath cistern and inlaid lettering. Pompeii
They found art. Wall frescoes. Sculpture. Wall mosaics.
Detailed, but cracked. Herculaneum
Frescoes again. Herculaneum
Decorating an archway. Herculaneum
Wall mosaic. Herculaneum 
Alcove decoration. Herculaneum 
Mosaic detail. Herculaneum 
Temple sculpture. Herculaneum 
House decoration. Pompeii 
Frescoes. Pompeii 
Wall reliefs. Pompeii
Tw sculptures. Not a puppet (KC's photo accident) Herculaneum
Wall mosaic. Pompii
Very cool buildings. And remember: there were buried, and dug up, including:
These columns. Herculaneum
These too. Pompeii
An amphitheatre, seating ~1,500. Pompeii 
The whole amphitheatre 
Another, smaller amphitheatre sitting text door 
The little one, less used but still partially restored 
A colleseum. Seating 12,000 
The insides.
There's an amphitheatre in Herculaneum, too, that seats about 2,000. It's there, but buried. They've dug tunnels around it, modelled it, measured it, but it sits under a whack of houses where people live.

And the most popular building with the tourists in Pompeii? Why, one of the brothels, of course. Complete with 2,000 year old advertising posters and 10 beds (not very big ones).
Somewhat suggestive 
Wonder what this cost? 
Or this? 
Small bed, built out of rock. Still, the goal isn't sleepovers
The art in the brothels (there's at least 2) has been so upsetting to some that over time they have been taken away (and put back), or painted over (and re-exposed). I gather the Vatican doesn't like them too much.

The science tells us that the folks in Herculaneum evaporated in a pyroclastic flow in minutes. The Pompeii dudes died over 2 days. Some 16,000 people died in the eruption, and 1,044 people were found in the ash casts in the photos above. 332 bodies were found at Herculaneum.

And they built the town of Ercolano on the place, since it had been covered by 23 m of stuff, and no one knew it was there any more. The funny part, which struck me the last time I was here 20+ years ago, is that the excavations just stop, even though there's lots of evidence the former city continues.
Herculaneum below. Ercolano on top.
The Italian answer? There's lots of ruins. Why dig up those, since people live there?

Well, they will until the next time Vesuvius, an active volcano that has erupted 42 times since 79 AD, blows it's top. Only 3,000,000 people live near it...
The giant sleeps. For today, at least.

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