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Life and Death
Pompeii and Herculaneum

British Museum
Thursday 11 April 2013

It was the first trip of the year for the DFAS members and I was looking forward to it immensely.  We all arrived early for a prompt getaway: I think we were all eager to get on our way for this very much publicised exhibition.  I had not seen all the recent programmes on the television but had been told how great they were.  This set the scene for a fantastic day ahead.

We arrived in London in time for coffee and biscuits before the lecture.  The lecture was given by Dr Paul Roberts, the Senior Curator for the Roman Department.  What a lecturer!  He gave a fascinating and extremely descriptive talk on what happened during the eruption of Vesuvius, and how the people may have behaved and felt.  He told of how it had taken five years to organise the exhibition but that the co-operation of the museum in Naples was tremendous.  This exhibition is the first in London for over 20 years and the first in the museum for both cities.  We saw pictures of the truck unloading the huge containers that only just fit through the doors and heard how it all took shape.  The hour-long lecture just flashed passed and he had us all mesmerised.

The exhibition itself was fascinating, drawing you in to the life of the everyday people that lived and worked in both Pompeii and Herculaneum.  Items preserved by either being carbonised with the intense heat that hit Herculaneum or by the ash cloud that took Pompeii by storm.  Anne Mcintyre, my companion, said how it evoked emotions deep within her.  There were some sombre moments when gazing on the casts left of the inhabitants after being turned to stone by the ash.


The young boy whose features were still visible and his clothing still adorning his body, the body having been burnt slowly but the ash covering and hardening into the cast we see now with only his skeleton beneath.

The amazing thing that stuck me was I could not believe that all these items were now over 2000 years old but how the jewellery and other everyday things like the pots and pans were as if they were just old fashion items we had found from a few years ago.

The frescos gave an insight into how the people behaved and lived and how slaves could become freemen.  How the Romans thought and behaved differently to ourselves and how they loved to bring the countryside into the cities by creating beautiful gardens to sit in.

The whole day was a joy and something that I will never forget.

Wendy Brownlee