The Day After Tomorrow, Twister and Volcano are Hollywood’s idea of what a cataclysmic natural disaster would be like. But in August 72 A.D., Mother Nature played out its own story when the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were buried alive under ash and pumice from a colossal eruption from Mount Vesuvius. Very few natural catastrophes have ever rivaled the destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum as an entire existence was obliterated in a 48-hour span.
Pompeii and Herculaneum was inadvertently unearthed in 1599 and was once again forgotten about until 1738 when Herculaneum was rediscovered by workers digging for the King of Naples’ summer palace. Pompeii was found 10 years later. In 1860, archeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli took charge of the excavations and had the spaces left by the victims of the eruption filled with plaster to create perfect casts of the citizens that were unable to escape. Pompeii and Herculaneum also marked the first major find in the budding discipline of archaeology.
What made the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum such an ideal discovery was the cause of its demise. The pumice and ash created a tomb for the municipalities and its occupants. Everything about the Roman towns remained the same as it did when eruption began – lying undisturbed and waiting for human civilization to resurrect it from its petrified state. More than any other find, Pompeii and Herculaneum gave people the opportunity to witness what daily life in the ancient world was like. Now New Yorkers can incorporate this once thriving city and its surrounding town into their daily routine by visiting Pompeii the Exhibit: Life and Death in the Shadow of Vesuvius at Discovery Times Square.
Pompeii the Exhibit is a comprehensive exploration into the commonalities of the human existence – a visual display that reminds of the audience that the song “Everything Old Is New Again” rings undeniably true. Over 250 artifacts are exhibited; we learn about Pompeii’s principle gods and goddesses, which were adopted from Rome, Greece and Egypt as well as view their money system, weights for measurement, a wall of graffiti, jewelry and a recreation of a room in a brothel. Also included were utensils, beans, a loaf of bread and partially restored frescos.
Perhaps the most creepy and bone-chilling aspect of the exhibit was the six-minute video that recreated the extermination of Pompeii and Herculaneum and the body casts and skeletal remains of those who perished. Patrons enter a dark room with a screen. Minute-by-minute the details of the eruption are witnessed as crashing, fiery effects are projected from the speakers and with a cold blast of air, the doors open to reveal the replicas of the citizens that endured the worst horror one’s mind could ever conceive. But what is equally fascinating and daunting was that unlike the rest of the exhibit, reality had been exhumed and presented right before our eyes. In other rooms of Pompeii the Exhibit: viewers could imagine a man entering the brothel room with his chosen lover or the gladiator that wore the helmet and shin guards that protected him in a glorious win. But there was no need to imagine the pain that was wracked in the face of a chained dog as he twisted on his back or the man that covered his face with his tunic to avoid inevitable suffocation. The room was filled with ghosts telling their story.
Pompeii the Exhibit: Life and Death in the Shadow of Vesuvius will run at Discovery Times Square, located at 226 West 44th Street, until September 5. Like the King Tut exhibit, a portion of the proceeds of the exhibit will go toward the preservation of the Pompeii site. Ticket prices range from $19.50 to $25.00 and the last tickets are sold 90 minutes prior to closing.
Photos: F.A.M.E NYC Editor, MWW Group