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Published:March 27th, 2013 08:24 EST
British Museum Brings 400 Artifacts from Ancient Pompeii and Herculaneum to London!

British Museum Brings 400 Artifacts from Ancient Pompeii and Herculaneum to London!

By John G. Kays

I just heard about the new exhibit at the British Museum in London, Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum, and it looks fascinating *(it runs from 3/28-9/29)! Unfortunately, I live in Austin, Texas, so I won`t get a chance to see it; I did, however, visit Pompeii in October of 2000, as well as pay a visit to the Archaeology Museum in Naples, which is the home for many of the exhibits currently on display at the British Museum. I am a devoted student of Pompeii, especially the fresco paintings and mosaics, so naturally I`m ransacking the internet in search of what`s on display at the new Pompeii exhibit.

I heard about the new show from the BBC page; the British press have provided some good reviews of Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum, which includes some informative video tours. So already, I`m getting a good idea of what`s on display; I`m such an enthusiast, though, I long to see the art, pottery, and plaster-caste bodies with my own two eyes. Furthermore, I`d like to see a complete inventory of everything they have; well, there`ll probably be exhibit books you can order from the British Museum, yet that`s still not going to really satisfy me!

Alright, so what I need to do is head for England and see it for myself, yet I know that won`t be possible.  I guess I better resign myself to the reality that I won`t get to attend it; I`ll begin to break down what I can learn from the internet and feel content that it can be experienced vicariously. 

The exhibition curator is Paul Roberts, and he`s been working on it for five years; many of the 400 objects on display have never left Italy and some have never been displayed publicly, even in Italy! The emphasis is on domestic life; it`s still amazing, but what we have is a moment of daily life frozen in time, August 24, 79 AD.

I did observe they have one exhibit I`m very aware of (BBC News - British Museum explores domestic life in Pompeii by Tim Masters), a revealing portrait of Terentius Neo and his wife, which hung in tablinum of the couples house. Terentius is holding a scroll and his wife has a stylus and a diptych, as if she`s the one taking care of business in that household. The couple peer out at us as if they`re telling us how it is to live in Pompeii in the 1st century AD; it`s so direct, we get it, we`re transported back in time by their hypnotizing stare!

From video footage I thought I also noticed the British Museum has a famous painting I`m familiar with, one of Bacchus represented from a bunch of grapes, where vinyards covered the slopes of Vesuvius (the painting comes from The House of the Centenary). There are serpents and birds in there too; it was found in the atrium of the servant`s quarters, which suggests that house servants were granted a modicum of respect. Were Roman attitudes about slavery different than ours from the 19th century in the Americas? Let us explore some more what they have, and hope that some of you will get to go.