For those of us in Los Angeles, the Getty
Villa in Malibu is a detailed re-creation of
the Villa of the Papyri in Herculaneum,
complete with peristyles, an atrium,
ornate geometric marble floors and
decorative frescoes and ceiling paintings.
After 1669 years of silence, covered by tons of pumice and
volcanic ash, Pompeii began to be excavated in 1748, and the
work continues today. At first, the ruins were looted and
backfilled, but in the 1800s, the project became more
systematic, and workers, more careful to preserve the treasures
of art and history entombed there.
Archaeologists excavate at Pompeii with Vesuvius in
Others of us live with reminders of
Vesuvius's destruction. For one of
our anniversaries, our children, Kathy
and Robert, gave us a reproduction
of a fresco from Boscoreale near
Pompeii. The entire room with its
original wall paintings is in the
Metropolitan Museum of Art in New
An aerial view of the city of Pompeii shows the extent of the
excavation as it appears today. Visiting it is probably the best way to
get a sense of how the people lived before the eruption.
For most of those excavating the city,
the job was to clear out debris, but for
some it was to fill in. Human bodies
that had been covered by ash left a
hole with bones in it. When these were
filled in with plaster, the actual forms of
the inhabitants of that long-ago city
were preserved in the exact positions
they had been overcome.