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Pompeii and Herculaneum
Transcript of Pompeii and Herculaneum
Pompeii and Herculaneum
It is certain that when the eruption of Vesuvius started on the morning of 24 August, AD 79, it caught the local population utterly unprepared. The eruption lasted for more than 24 hours. Those who fled at once, unburdened by possessions, had a chance of survival, for the rain of ash and pumice, mixed with lithics, that descended for several hours was not necessarily lethal. It is clear that many, like the elder Pliny, thought their best chance was to take shelter and weather the storm.
It was not until around midnight that the first pyroclastic surges and flows occurred, caused by the progressive collapse of the eruptive column, and these meant certain death for the people of the region. (A pyroclastic flow is a ground-hugging avalanche of hot ash, pumice, rock fragments and volcanic gas, which rushes down the side of a volcano as fast as 100 km/hour or more.)
Map of the Region
Students learn to:
• comprehend and analyse a range of archaeological and written sources relevant to the core study of the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum
• use sources to reconstruct aspects of life in Pompeii and Herculaneum in AD 79
• evaluate the implications of gaps in the evidence for reconstructing life in Pompeii and Herculaneum in AD 79
• describe and assess different methods used by archaeologists, historians and other specialists to investigate the sites over time
• evaluate different representations of Pompeii and Herculaneum over time
• discuss relevant issues of conservation and reconstruction; custodianship of the sites and the display of human remains
• present the findings of investigations of key features or issues relevant to the study of Pompeii and Herculaneum
• communicate effectively in oral and written forms to describe and analyse features and issues of the study.
Now came the dust, though still thinly. I look back: a dense cloud looms behind us, following us like a flood poured across the land. "Let us turn aside while we can still see, lest we be knocked over in the street and crushed by the crowd of our companions." We had scarcely sat down when a darkness came that was not like a moonless or cloudy night, but more like the black of closed and unlighted rooms. You could hear women lamenting, children crying, men shouting. Some were calling for parents, others for children or spouses; they could only recognize them by their voices. Some bemoaned their own lot, other that of their near and dear. There were some so afraid of death that they prayed for death. Many raised their hands to the gods, and even more believed that there were no gods any longer and that this was one last unending night for the world. Nor were we without people who magnified real dangers with fictitious horrors. Some announced that one or another
part of Misenum had collapsed or burned; lies, but they found believers. It grew lighter, though that seemed not a return of day, but a sign that the fire was approaching. The fire itself actually stopped some distance away, but darkness and ashes came again, a great weight of them. We stood up and shook the ash off again and again, otherwise we would have been covered with it and crushed by the weight. I might boast that no groan escaped me in such perils, no cowardly word, but that I believed that I was perishing with the world, and the world with me, which was a great consolation for death
pliny the younger letters book 6 letter 16, Translated by Professor Cynthia Damon of Amherst College
After the Eruption
Pompeii was buried, covering the town and its inhabitants in many tons of pumice and volcanic ash. The disaster remained in people's minds for many years but was eventually forgotten, until the exploration of the ancient site started in an area called 'Civita', in 1748. This was found to be a comparatively easy task, because the debris that had caused such chaos was light and not compacted.
The effect of the eruption was evidently totally traumatic, as is shown by the failure to reoccupy the sites of the cities destroyed. It was normal practice to rebuild the cities of this region after even the most massive earthquakes; but neither Herculaneum nor Pompeii was reoccupied.