Saturday, June 9, 2012

Herculaneum


Photos from our tour of Herculaneum;

One approaches the site from the modern town of Herculaneum sixty feet above the ancient town.  As you walk down the path toward the sea you begin to realize that the site of the ancient Herculaneum is completely underground except for this small excavated section of the town.  At the end of the ramp you turn onto a gangway that leads to an ancient street that begins at what was once the edge of the Mediterranean.  As you can see many of the buildings are in a state of excellent preservation.  Food service shops still have their counter tops built out of chunks of marble atop large storage jars that used to contain nuts, grains, bread and soups.  Much of the wooden elements of the buildings are still in place.  Some of the window shutters, exterior beams, wine racks and furniture that are still in place were charred by the hot gases of the pyroclastic flows from Mount Vesuvius.  


The interiors of typical roman homes here are well preserved.  The first main room of a house we visited, the Atrium, is two stories high, complete with mosaic tile floors, a pool in the center of the room, Frescos on the walls and sliding cedar entry doors.  The opening in the ceiling provided the space with light and ventilation but it also allowed rainwater to pour in and fill the pool, called an impluvium.  When the pool filled up it then over flowed into a cistern which provided the family with a store of fresh water.  Beyond this first main room is the Tablinum in which the owner conducted business, which looks out to an enclosed garden beyond know as a Peristyle.  These Peristyles were usually surrounded by columns supporting porch roofs or Porticos.  Traces of the gardens still remain and of course there was typically a decorative pool and fountain. 

Each of these homes was completely enclosed with solid stone walls and tile roofs. Some of these homes of the wealthy covered entire city blocks or Insula.  This kept the household save from intruders.  Once the front entry was sealed the house was safe from thieves or rioters in the street.  Yet the home still enjoyed gardens, sunlight, flowing fountains, fresh air and blue skies.  It was a clever design for urban living in an unstable world. 

At one point our tour guide showed us a bird bath supported by three carved seahorses.  He instructed us to feel the detail in the mouth of one of the seahorses.  The roman sculptors were so thorough that they included the shapes of the inside of the roof of sea horses mouths.

If we ever get the chance we will go back and spend several days in Herculaneum and Pompeii.

Food service counter in a fast food store.
Food storage jar in the corner of what was once a house.
Note the lead the pipes in front of the entry to this building!
A typical street in Herculanium.
View from the foyer through the Atrium.  Note the uneven floor due to years of burial under 60 feet of volcanic deposits.
The Peristyle with it's pool
Detail of the threshold of the front door.
View of the Atrium with its Impluvium (pool), intact
Sliding cedar doors, bench and opening in the roof.
Again the Impluvium with its bench and an access opening to the cistern below.
Detail of the tile floor.
Another shot of the garden
Another garden with a mosaic alter that once held Sculptures.
Charred wooden shutters
Mosaics in the Roman bath house
Views of the Forum
Another view of the Forum where my wife leans on fountain with a trough.
A false colonnade and handrail
A Villa of a wealthy Roman over looking the sea, Note the bird bath supported with the three sea horses.

1 comment:

  1. The restoration is stunning. The pictures are fabulous. They show the beauty, the engineering and architectural
    skills of the of inhabitants. It was a pleasure be able to see the spectacular photos depicting the lives of people 2000 years ago. To visualize the beautiful paintings and mosaics without being there was exciting to see. Thank you

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