Day 56 – November 9th, 2007

Herculaneum

Michael Poppler and Angela Monafo Reporting:

 

We’re back – well rested and ready to go.

 

Today we visited Herculaneum, Pompeii’s lesser know cousin and fellow victim of Mount Vesuvius. The focus of our trip was to look at how private space was used. Mount Vesuvius created a time capsule in 79AD, when Herculaneum and Pompeii were covered over by the volcanic eruptions. Herculaneum was covered by a mudslide 15 meters high, which hardened and has served as an amazing preservative.

Looking at the different houses was a highlight on the day. We went through many atriums and had lengthy debates on the style classifications of the wall paintings. These modern classifications (divided into 4 stylistic periods), while arbitrary, help archaeologists date the renderings.

            It was also interesting to note how the people of Herculaneum integrated architecture with the landscape in a way to suit their aesthetic needs. For example, dining rooms were built on different axes – as compared to the rest of house – in order to take advantage of ocean views.    

            When we first arrived at the site, Michael and Charlie discussed how odd it was that the people of Herculaneum had both metallic sidewalks and elevators. Shortly after this discussion began, the rest of the group pointed out that these were additions made during the excavation. Michael and Charlie continue to look for the holy grail…

            Not to incriminate a certain woman…. so let’s just say that a certain tenured Dartmouth Professor tried to break into two different closed areas of the site by using a student ID from Columbia University (in case of a quick exit, it was completely irretraceable evidence). Proving fruitless in both attempts, we settled for stepping over the ropes blocking off rooms in a bath complex. Mischief Managed.

              We also got to see some local eateries, with big terracotta cooking pots and counters still intact. Sadly, there were two McDonalds located on the same street, but no BK…bummer. 

            There were several fabulous houses that were actually open for viewing. Everyone became accustomed to the site of an entrance corridor, leading directly into the atrium with the impluvium. Each house had its own distinct layout and character. In one house we found a beautiful mosaic portraying Mars and Venus, hidden inside a back room with an elaborate shrine. As we came to discover, each house had its own identity and secret charm.

 

Michael feels figures he will create a replica of the featured mosaic on his arrival into the States – that is, if he finds the 15 minutes to spare.

Dream on, Michael. Dream on.

Anyways, having taken a healthy dose of domestic life for the day – a nice change from public life on that note –the group headed back to Pompeii. Oh, and dinner was deviiiiiiiiine thanks to some bartering by our ultimate supporter, Alessia (thank you again!). That’s how Dartmouth rolls, baby!