'Once in a generation exhibition' at British Museum brings Herculaneum out from under Pompeii's shadow
|herculaneum (Photo credit: ndrwfgg)|
PUBLISHED: 08:48 GMT, 22 October 2012 | UPDATED: 08:48 GMT, 22 October 2012
When Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD79, hundreds of Herculaneum's inhabitants rushed down to the beach, attempting to make their escape by sea.
Heartbreakingly, one of those terrified Romans was a young girl, who sadly didn't survive to tell the tale. But her charm bracelet did.
Adorned with trinkets that came from all corners of the Roman Empire - rock crystal from the Alps, amber from the Baltic and shells from the Indian Ocean - the jewellery is a poignant reminder of the human cost that befell both Herculaneum and better-known Pompeii when Vesuvius unleashed its fury in the first century AD.
Step back in time: A fresco found in Herculaneum shows a rare glimpse into the domestic life of the city's Roman inhabitants
The bracelet and more than 250 other objects from the two cities will go on show at the British Museum in March in an exhibition whose breadth has not been seen in London for 40 years.
Many of the exhibits have never made it outside Italy and TravelMail was given a sneak preview of what curator Dr Paul Roberts called a 'once in a generation show'.
Not so lucky charms: The trinkets on a girl's bracelet show the reaches of the Roman empire
While its title is Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum, it is more about life rather than the catastrophic way in which these cities on the Bay of Naples, in southern Italy, were buried in just 24 hours.
'[The people] are so much like us and that's what you've got to carry away from this exhibition,' says Dr Roberts. 'They were very ordinary people caught up in extraordinary times.'
Beware of the dog: A mosaic of a guard dog (left) was found in Pompeii's House of Orpheus, where the plaster cast on the right was also taken
The exhibition centres around the 'domestic realities' of daily life using objects recovered from what were two typical Roman cities, situated near the heart of the empire.
In the shadow of Vesuvius: Ruins of the ancient city of Herculaneum today, in the modern town of Ercolano
Visitors will view everyday objects such as a child's crib, turned to charcoal by the intense heat of the volcano, a loaf of bread, complete with scored segments and the stamp of its baker, and even preserved figs.
|Surface of a roman road in Herculaneum, which was buried by the eruption of mount Vesuvius 79 AD (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Nothing is deemed too pedestrian either, including the 1st Century peppercorn, from India, unearthed in one of Herculaneum's drains.
Pompeii is often the ruin that people know most about but Dr Roberts says it is important to look at both historical sights to fully understand what went on.
Due to their different locations, both cities were buried in different ways, impacting the manner in which the artifacts have been preserved.
For example, Herculaneum has not yielded any of the emotive plaster casts of bodies striking poses of terror as Pompeii has.
Exhibition visitors will be able to see that famous impression of the dog writhing in agony, found just feet away from the mosaic of a guard dog at the House of Orpheus.
Similarly, at Herculaneum, the 400 to 500-Celsius volcanic avalanche preserved many objects, including furniture and food, which were carbonised by a cloud of superheated gas.
One exhibit that jumps straight out of history is the three-legged table, similar in shape to one portrayed in a fresco of a private dinner, found at Herculaneum.
'They are two essential sides of the coin,' says Dr Roberts, 'and you need two sides of the story.'
If you're visiting, make time for both sites, he says, as there are 'aspects of them that can't be found in the other.'
Another top tip is to stay in Naples as many visitors base themselves in Sorrento.
'It's a fascinating Baroque city and you get the atmosphere of what a Roman city would have been like,' Dr Roberts adds, alluding to the hustle and bustle common to each, despite the separation of almost 2000 years of history.
With an emphasis on conservation, two thirds of Herculaneum is still buried while a third lies undiscovered at Pompeii - tantalisingly, the haul of treasure that will be on display next year may not be all there is to see in years to come.
The exhibition opens on March 28 and is sponsored by Goldman Sachs. Adult tickets will cost £15. For more information, visit www.britishmuseum.org.