Secrets of Pompeii and Herculaneum to go on display in new British Museum exhibition

By Travelmail Reporter


There is nothing quite like the eeriness experienced as you wander through the ruins of Pompeii.

But the vibrancy of this once busy city, wiped out by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, will be brought to life in a new exhibition in London next year.

Dozens of objects recovered from Pompeii and Herculaneum, which also perished in the eruption, will go on show outside Italy for the first time at the British Museum in March.

A fragment of a wall painting shows a man reclining to drink

Raising a glass: A fragment of a wall painting shows a man reclining to drink

The show will feature objects found in the ruins of the two cities including jewellery, carbonised food and a baby's crib that still rocks on its curved runners.

Curator Paul Roberts said the 250 objects would illustrate the domestic lives of the population and show the 'different halves of this amazing story'.

He said: 'These are not extraordinary cities, they die in an extraordinary way, but they are ordinary cities in Roman terms.

A gold bracelet in the form of a coiled snake Intricate: A gold bracelet in the form of a coiled snake shows the wealth of some of Pompeii's inhabitants

A carbonised wooden cradle

Poignant: A carbonised wooden cradle from a house in Herculaneum still rocks on its curved runners

'That's why they are so important because we can look at them and say we have a pretty good idea what was going on in other Roman cities.'

Mr Roberts said the 400 to 500C volcanic avalanche that buried Herculaneum had preserved many objects including furniture and food.

He said: 'It was buried in a different way from Pompeii and the effect of that as this cloud of superheated gas and debris swirled around the houses of Herculaneum it carbonised, it turned into charcoal wood, leather and even food.'

A wall painting of the baker Terentius Neo and his wife, from the House of Terentius Neo, Pompeii, AD 50-79
A plaster cast of a dog, from the House of Orpheus

Face to face with history: A wall painting of the baker Terentius Neo and his wife (left) and a plaster cast of a dog will be on display

Six pieces of carbonised furniture, including the crib, will be lent to the British Museum in what Mr Roberts said was 'a world first'.

He said there would also be 'a loaf of bread that was put in the oven in AD79 and came out in the 1930s' complete with the name stamp of the slave who baked it.

Other exhibits include peppercorns rescued from the drains, carbonised figs, a lamp and wall paintings.

Ruins of Pompeii

Blast from the past: Pompeii was hit by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD79

Also on show will be the body casts of six people, including a family of two adults and two children who died huddled together under the steps of their villa, and a pet dog.

Mr Roberts said: 'The exhibition isn't about death, you had to have the death of the cities in order to bring them to life again, but the exhibition is all about the life of these people.'


The show is a collaboration with the Archaeological Superintendency of Naples and Pompeii, which is responsible for the remains of the two cities.

The exhibition runs from March 28 to September 29 next year at the London museum.

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