Body casts and artifacts from the sites of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Oplontis, devastated by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D., are now on exhibit at the National Archaeological Museum in Naples until August 31. The exhibit then moves to Musees Royaux dArt et dHistoire in Brussels from Oct. 9 to Feb. 8, 2004.
Comparatively few inhabitants of Herculaneum remained to be caught by this blast, since most had had the opportunity to flee. During the 1980s, however, a new excavation of the towns harbor area uncovered a series of barrel-vaulted sheds along a beach, seemingly used to keep boats and fishing tackle. About 300 people had sought refuge in these shelters, and although they were protected from the full force of the volcano's first surge, they died soon after from the intense heat and toxic gases. The exceptionally detailed cast (thanks to modern techniques) of a group preserved in the agonized throes of death, is the exhibition's most nightmarish display. Among the individuals in the boathouses were a doctor or surgeon, who was carrying a set of instruments strikingly similar to their present-day equivalents, and a soldier, who had with him his weapons and a knapsack containing tools.
Many ancient frescoes are exhibited for the first time. Three complete dining rooms have been reconstructed with nine walls of frescoes from a villa in Moregine, a suburb of Pompeii, where the Emperor Nero visited. Another reconstructed dining room from a villa in nearby Terzigno--its entire length opening onto a portico--features extraordinarily fine frescoes of mythological scenes in Pompeiis architectural style. The owners sold their estate to a wine and olive-oil producer after the earthquake of A.D. 62, an omen of the eruption to come.
The show also includes an incredibly detailed scale model from 1879 of the excavations with a retrospective of paintings, literature and film clips--even a psychoanalytical study by Sigmund Freud--inspired by the eruption since Pompeiis rediscovery in the 18th century.
See also: http://www.time.com/time/europe/magazine/article/0,13005,901030519-450959,00.html