Even though I have been very happy with the sites we have covered in the class so far, I was disappointed to find that we would not be covering Pompeii. It is a fascinating place and I have been interested in it since I was a child. For this blog post, I have decided to talk about a National Geographic article I read a few days ago called “Ancient Roman Life Preserved at Pompeii.”
Pompeii has captivated the minds of many people, scholars and non-scholars alike. Back in its day, it was a bustling center of trade and commerce for the Romans. However, in A.D. 79, disaster struck. Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the whole city—and many of its citizens. A witness states, “Darkness fell, not the dark of a moonless or cloudy night, but as if the lamp had been put out in a dark room” (Owens, n.d.).
In the mid-18th century, Westerners found Pompeii again. To their surprise, it was almost perfectly preserved. Ever since, it has been host to treasure hunters and archaeologists looking for new pieces of the puzzle. According to Steven Ellis, the co-director of the Pompeii Archaeological Project, it has become the “longest continually excavated site in the world” (as cited in Owens, n.d.).
At first, archaeologists were interested mostly in mapping the destruction. Now, they are looking at how the city developed. The preserved site is a fantastic way to see how the Romans lived. The lifestyle of the wealthy has already been determined; it was among the first things to be excavated. These days, scientists are trying to get a look at the other 98%. Through archaeology, scholars have been given a glimpse at the daily life of both the elite that lived in the city and the commoners who worked there.
Interestingly enough, a third of the city is still buried under Mount Vesuvius’ ashes. Even though almost two hundred years has gone by since its discovery, it still has much to offer the archaeological community. Yet scholars say that there is no rush to unearth the rest of the site. Currently, they are attempting to preserve Pompeii as best as they can. Much of the city has been exposed to the elements since it was unburied years ago. This exposure is beginning to take its toll on the site. The tourist industry, pollution, and weather are putting Pompeii in danger. However, the Pompeii Archaeological Project’s co-director Gary Devore is hopeful for the future. He says that he has seen great improvement in preservation and conservation at this important city over the last 13 years. One can only hope that he is correct and Pompeii will still be around for years to come (Owens, n.d.).
Owens, J. (n.d.). Ancient Roman Life Preserved at Pompeii — National Geographic. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/archaeology/pompeii/