May 4, 2016 – Today we learned the story of Herculaneum – an ancient town near Pompeii buried by the same eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD that also decimated its more famous neighbour.
Herculaneum is still largely hidden beneath the streets of the modern town of Ercolano; it was buried under 20 metres of volcanic ash and debris so it was much harder for archeologists to excavate over the centuries. It’s quieter and less busy than Pompeii – but just as fascinating.
Mount Vesuvius, by the way, is the only active volcano in continental Europe and last erupted in 1944. Based on its track record, it acts up about every century, so it’s due for some activity. Three million people live in the bay of Naples region, we heard today – and we saw houses and villages built up the side of the mountain.
The grassy moat in front of the arches below is where the beachfront was 2000 years ago. About 30 or so years ago, skeletons of Vesuvius victims were found under the arches, where they had sought shelter from the coming doom.
These are only recreations of the skeletons that were found inside the arches – formerly boat houses, according to our guide – but the find proved to historians that the village was not actually evacuated when the volcano erupted.
Amazing paintings line the walls of many of Herculaneum’s buildings – all sadly unprotected and in no way preserved. It saddened me to see graffiti and names carved into the ancient walls.
Unique rock shapes are found throughout many of Herculaneum’s structures:
A house with a view into an amazing courtyard. According to our guide, this was a settlement of rich inhabitants.