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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pompeii, Italy

We were lucky enough to book a private tour with an English speaking guide for a tour of Pompeii. This was probably one of the most fascinating tours I have ever experienced.

For those who don’t know, Pompeii used to be a flourishing city on the Mediterranean coast until the volcano lurking underneath Mount Vesuvius erupted. This eruption occurred in August of 79 AD. We now know this eruption lasted 3 days and anyone left in the town died of asphyxiation from the poisonous gases, ashes, or from being burned.

This site is probably best known for the plaster casts that were made during some of the excavations. During the excavation there were pockets they didn’t know what they were until they poured plaster into the pockets and after it dried, they were able to see these were people that had died. Some of the village people died with their arms stretched upward as if to try and shelter them from the gas or from the mud that was traveling over 100 mph. With some, you can see the postures as if they are in motion or in a state of fear, which also suggests their deaths were very, very, very rapid.

What is so interesting to me about this site is how advanced this civilization was. They had running water. They had paved roads with reflectors so you could see at night. They had sliding doors that created rivets in the store shop doors. They had cross walks, plumbing, fast food restaurants, as well as an advance culture of exquisite art and a library of writings that have been preserved. Their engineering ability and understanding of mathematics was very advanced. They used the similar medical devices and tools that we use today (such as a speculum). They had glass. They had metals. In other words, we haven’t changed as much as we may think we have.

If you enjoy archeology, history, or culture, you don’t want to miss visiting Pompeii.

Here is the start of the Pompeii tour. It begins at what used to serve as the boat docks. This also housed a hot communal bath and bordello. During the excavation they found many bodies huddled in the rooms waiting for ships to come and rescue them. The ships could not make it to the shore because of the tsunami which prevented them from coming into Pompeii. ROAD TO POMPEII
The road is made of granite stone and nestled between the gray rocks are small squares of white rock which served as reflectors so people could see the roadways.
There are several plaster casts of former people who had been killed during the mount vesuvius eruption. Here are some of the plaster casts of these people in their final state of life, including details of their clothing, belts, posture, etc.

There are many mosaic designs in the more prominent and large homes, including one mosaic which is of a dog at the entrance of this home and it even says "Beware of Dog".
One of the most famous mosaics at the site is of Alexander the Great and Darius III’s battle. This mosaic was found in the largest home in Pompeii. It is a huge mosaic, about 15 feel long and 9 feet tall. If you ever have the chance to visit Pompeii, you should go. It is a remarkable journey into the past and the culture doesn't seem that different from what we know today.