Monday, February 06, 2012

Spend ‘A Day in Pompeii’ at the Museum of Science

Imagine a city buried under pyroclastic debris, a city frozen in time for nearly 2,000 years. That city is Pompeii and right now you can see preserved pieces of life from two millennia ago at the Boston Museum of Science. The exhibit, "A Day in Pompeii," which leaves Boston after Feb. 12, contains pieces from Pompeii that shed light on how people lived in the first century C.E. of the Roman Empire and educational videos detailing life in Pompeii.

Pompeii, a city located to the southwest of Mount Vesuvius in Italy (near Naples), was completely buried by Vesuvius' eruption in 79 C.E. When one thinks of volcanoes, one often thinks of flowing rivers of lava. Vesuvius' eruption was pyroclastic, however, meaning that there was no lava; the city was buried under soot, ash and other bits of debris from the exploding mountaintop. While this was surely horrifying for the people still in Pompeii at the time of the eruption—many had fled due to a series of earthquakes preceding the eruption—it is a boon to archaeologists because the pyroclastic debris perfectly preserved many artifacts and prevented many thieves from being able to make off with Pompeii's treasures.

The exhibit, for which one must buy a special ticket, contains two well-made videos. The first, which you will see right when you walk in, explains some of the commonalities of Roman life in Pompeii, explaining common jobs, religious beliefs, etc. This video is useful to put the rest of the exhibit into context. The second video, however, is much more engaging; it shows a computer simulation of what happened to Pompeii in the two days it took for Pompeii to erupt completely. It begins with an earthquake and then shows buildings toppling as heavy debris rains down on them and eventually ends with the burying of Pompeii.

More at The Brandeis Hoot » Spend 'A Day in Pompeii' at the Museum of Science