The Exhibition Of The Year: Life & Death In Pompeii & Herculaneum At The British Museum.

Sorry about the delay between posts it’s been a very hectic couple of weeks. However I am hoping that this post is well worth the wait.

Easter 2008 Pompeii My own picture

Easter 2008 Pompeii
My own picture

There are some holidays that you just do not forget and one of the most amazing trips I have made was to the Amalfi cost and Naples and when I went to visit Pompeii and Herculaneum a large ambition was achieved. So when the British Museum announced that they were holding an exclusive exhibition with exciting exhibits from the two archaeological in southern Italy I was excited.

I went with @AliceMartha. The only downside about the exhibition was that it was packed. I have never been to an exhibition so packed at the BM before Easter Holidays were probably note the best time to visit.

The exhibition is being held in the old reading room in the centre of the museum court. I love this space, and each exhibition they have held in the round room has been great easy to navigate and a great backdrop for the exhibits.

Cast of a dog Image my own

Cast of a dog Image my own

The first case held for me one of the saddest Pompeii artefacts, a dog in its final death position complete with collar.  As I write this post I have my dog laying on my feet and I cant help but feel sad to think of that poor animal dying on its own. The detail of its collar makes the Romans seem human rather than just history; in fact the whole of this exhibition turned History into a human story.

We meet a woman who was immortalised in statue and funded the biggest public building in Pompeii and she was a priestess recognised buy her veil. Women and antiquity is a topic for another post but she was a unique woman.

We move and queue to look at the tavern wall paintings fish sauce bottles with the background noise of a Roman street. On the mural from a Pompeii pub, there is depicted a couple kissing and some gambling. 

A man running for Office and his Educated wife Image my own

A man running for Office and his Educated wife Image my own

In the next room one of the most exciting desplays is an image of a man standing for office and his educated wife. We see a mosaic of a dog black with a red lead and collar again reminding me of my dog.

Image my Own

Image my Own

The area depicting the garden had some very recognizable items such as a bench and garden ornaments this cheeky chap might be thought of as a Pompeiian gnome?

a "charming" Pompeian Gnome Image my own

a “charming” Pompeian Gnome Image my own

One of the most controversial archaeological finds Pan and the Nanny Goat. The Romans would not have seen this as odd and if you think about it Pan was a god half goat half man. The position of the goat is less mating more love making. It would have been titillating, humorous but not seen as depraved or deviant as some of the people who found it.

I have seen this before in the Naples Museum, Italy. Image is my own

I have seen this before in the Naples Museum, Italy. Image is my own

In the room that looked at the household items the most moving peace of furniture was a child’s cradle. When this artefact was found, there were leaves for a mattress and an infants body was found. It is the only cradle from this period of time yet there must have been ten if not hundreds of infants I both cities.

There was also an array of beauty products ironically a pumice stone for smoothing feet in a metal holder a mirror tweezers and a small pot still containing remnants of a pink cosmetic.

The section with household items were amazing. Pots and dishes made with skill, a hot water urn, and interior designs Roman style. The mosaic with tiny squares depicting fish scene to amazing detail.

The posh Pompeiians Mouse farm pot Image My own

The posh Pompeiians Mouse farm pot Image My own

In the kitchen section we find pans and moulds that Delia or Mary Berry would be able to use today. But the most bizarre item was a dormouse pot, the posh Pompeiian KFC bucket. They would fatten the rodents up on hazel nuts and then eat them. They also used to have their domestic toilets in the kitchen. Hygiene was poor how they did not all die of cholera is beyond me. And there was a charcoaled loaf completed with roman baker mark.

Then the last and most moving part of the exhibition the deaths of the citizens of the Bay of Naples. As Herculaneum is closer to the volcano, the effects on the victims is different the people here literally boiled in their skin. The skeletons were mainly women and children. Important items such as a hoard of coins were found with the remains. BBC2 had a programme on that said one little boy brought his pet dog with him. Disaster was not new, in 63AD there was an earthquake and these people were probably taking refuge believing that the disaster was just another earthquake.

In Pompeii the people had more time and less heat. Those who stayed were covered by ash were they fell. Moulds of their remains in plaster cast were made and have created some of the most moving images from the roman world. The first of these casts on display was actually filled with resin, they hoped that the resin would allow the scientists to see the bones but didn’t work. This cast was of a woman and gold items were found near her. All through the exhibition there was amazing gold jewellery some of it almost contemporary in style however this would have been 24 carrot gold and real pearls.

Iconic Pompeii cast of the crouching Beggar Image my own

Iconic Pompeii cast of the crouching Beggar Image my own

Then the most iconic of the Pompeii casts was shown, a crouching beggar. It is thought that this figure helped fostered a theory that those in Pompeii were choked to death by fumes from the volcano. The last of the casts was of a young family, 2 small children and their parents. It was so heartbreaking to see these peoples deaths so intimately.

The exhibition has made me realise that I did not cover half of the site of Pompeii while I was there during Easter 2008. The exhibition has made me hungry to go back and revisit the sites in Italy in better detail.

Again the British Museum have triumphed in another exclusive and exciting exhibition bring Roman towns alive and bringing the lives of the people who lived and died here a human quality books can not do. Truly remarkable exhibition.

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