Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pompeii Exhibit in Charlotte

Last week I realized that the Pompeii Exhibit "A Day in Pompeii" would be leaving Charlotte on January 4th. The exhibit was only in 4 U.S. cities and Charlotte was the last stop. I quickly arranged for an overnight trip to see the exhibit and to have a little Christmas gift of staying in one my favorite hotels, The Dunhill, which is just across the street from the exhibit.

After a Saturday afternoon drive through the misty, gray rainy weather, we arrived at The Dunhill, which incidentally had already picked up tickets for us, and off to the exhibit we went. The docent said no flash photography, so I disabled the flash and took a few pictures. The first part of the exhibit showed a typical day in Pompeii in 79 A.D. The cooking, the jars and jugs, the food, the houses, the worship, the utensils, jewelry, art and gardens. The last part of the exhibit explained the eruption of Vesuvius and how the people of Pompeii tried to escape, and what dying in the ash, gases, pumice, and other volcanic material would've been like. Dark, hot, increasingly hard to breathe. Terrible.

For hundreds and hundreds of years it was all left undisturbed under many feet of ash, rubble and rock, but in the 1700's archeologists began the work to uncover the city again. The most haunting images were the body casts of the people and animals that died. Here's how they were discovered (from the wiki site about Pompeii and Herculaneum):

"Giuseppe Fiorelli took charge of the excavations in 1860. During early excavations of the site, occasional voids in the ash layer had been found that contained human remains. It was Fiorelli who realised these were spaces left by the decomposed bodies and so devised the technique of injecting plaster into them to perfectly recreate the forms of Vesuvius's victims. What resulted were highly accurate and eerie forms of the doomed Pompeiani who failed to escape, in their last moment of life, with the expression of terror often quite clearly visible."

The room in the exhibit where the body casts were shown was dark, with black walls and a red floor. Spotlights showed the plaster body casts, and beautiful somber music played softly in the background. Something I won't soon forget.

Here are few pictures I took of the exhibit:

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