Many moons ago, I was an archaeology major at the only university that truly matters in my state. 😉 While there, majors in our department had to take a variety of classes on archaeology, anthropology, and history. For our history requirements, some of our choices for courses came from the art history department. In all, I’ve taken I think four art history classes at the collegiate level, and I don’t mind saying that that first one kicked my ass! But that first was one majorly important as it was all about Etruscan and Roman art and sculpture. It was in this class, that I first met the Primaporta Augustus and the Farnese Hercules. This class taught me how to lay a grid for groundwork digging and how to interpret the mythology of various temple reliefs. My professor in this class was strict, no frills, and extremely knowledgeable. He also happened to be the lead archaeologist at Pompeii at that time. He spent his summers (and the occasional semester) working on further uncovering the buildings and artifacts left behind after the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. Had I stayed at my beloved university, it’s quite likely I would have spent some time working under him, exploring the mysteries of what was part of Ancient Rome. However, to make a long story very short- I met my husband, made a decision, transferred schools to be near him, and ended up majoring in a”Well-what-the-hell-am-I-supposed-to-do-for-a-career-now?” Not that I regret making that choice, but having the opportunity to visit somewhere like Pompeii was a very poignant and special opportunity for me.
Since the husband finished up his work on time during our week in Naples, we were fortunate enough to have time to plan a day trip to not only Pompeii, but also its “sister-site” Herculaneum.
After breakfast at the hotel, we hopped an early bus to get to the Naples train station in order to catch a train to nearby Ercolano on the slopes of Vesuvius. The train tickets and traveling system were fairly easy to figure out, though signage in the station is a little lacking. But the ride from Naples to Ercolano was only about 15 minutes, and we got to the Herculaneum site just as it was about to open. For about the first hours, it was just, a flock of nuns, and an older British couple. The husband played tour guide reading from a great guide that we had purchased at Naples’ archaeological museum with layouts, maps, and details about both Herculaneum and Pompeii. He directed to us to various sites while I got a chance to play camera nazi and tell him little tidbits that I remembered from my archaeology classes.
Herculaneum is far smaller than Pompeii. It was a seaside town which is interesting to note since it is not any longer. You can stand on some of the ruined houses that were at one time oceanfront dwellings. Now they front a massive wall many feet high of cooled, dried lava. Because of the eruption, the coastline actually moved about 1,500 feet to its present location. Like Pompeii, Herculaneum suffered tremendous damage in a large earthquake in 62 CE, from which it only started to recover when Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE. However, unlike Pompeii which pretty much got smothered in ash, Herculaneum was actually overrun by flows of volcanic mud.
A few photos from the town of Herculaneum:
That’s probably enough pic spam/porn for today, ha! Hopefully they all come out, since I know I have to go back and edit a couple of posts that got overloaded with pics in earlier reports. Stay tuned for Part Two: Pompeii!