Herculaneum: Art of a Buried City

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9780789211460: Herculaneum: Art of a Buried City

A sumptuously illustrated survey of the art and architecture of this prosperous Roman town, remarkably preserved by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79

Herculaneum, located on the picturesque Bay of Naples, was buried in the same volcanic eruption as its larger neighbor, Pompeii. But while Pompeii was covered by a relatively shallow layer of loose volcanic ash, Herculaneum was submerged in deep flows of hot volcanic mud, which preserved the upper stories of buildings, as well as organic materials like wooden furnishings and foodstuffs.

This oversized volume opens with an account of the city's catastrophic destruction in AD 79, and of the excavations, underway since 1738, that have brought at least a part of its treasures back to light. It then surveys the principal public buildings and private residences that have been uncovered, including the famous Villa of the Papyri, perched to the northwest of the town.

The splendid decoration of these ancient structures—in particular, their wall paintings—is presented as never before, thanks to an extensive photographic campaign carried out especially for this book. With these superb illustrations complementing an authoritative text, Herculaneum is sure to be welcomed by all students and enthusiasts of archaeology.

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About the Author:

Maria Paola Guidobaldi has been director of the excavations at Herculaneum since 2000. In this role, she is also joint leader of the Herculaneum Conservation Project, sponsored by the Packard Humanities Institute.

Domenico Esposito, currently a visiting scholar at the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut in Berlin, worked with the Herculaneum Conservation Project from 2004 to 2010.

Luciano Pedicini is a noted photographer of antiquities, based in Naples.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

In 1997, Pompeii, Herculaneum and the villa of Oplontis were declared World Heritage sites by UNESCO because their remains offer an astonishing testament to Roman civilization at a precise moment of the past, in an abundance of detail and a state of preservation that is unique in the world.
 The Vesuvian archeological sites are, in fact, true cities that have been transmitted to us in their entirety by the volcanic eruption of AD 79, with all of their large and small streets, public and private buildings, paintings and mosaics, furnishings, as well as the infinite and varied traces of daily life. Elsewhere, time has gradually chipped away at ancient structures or, in other cases, transformed them, absorbed them, and changed their function, at times swallowing them entirely and canceling the least scrap of evidence. In contrast, the Vesuvian excavation, particularly at Herculaneum, have revealed the scene of a catastrophe, that has just occurred in a city that was, until that moment, teeming with life: houses are left roofless, walls toppled over, doors knocked off their hinges, and furniture strewn every which way, but almost everything can be salvaged or reconstructed. At Herculaneum, the high temperature associated with the volcanic phenomenon also created conditions of preservation that are almost without comparison, even at Pompeii, yielding in carbonized form, the entire range of organic materials: food, papyri textiles, rope, wax, tablets, and the wooden elements of furniture and buildings, all the valuable sources of information about these "minor"
aspects of civilization.

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