Pompeii and Herculaneum are Brought to Life at British Museum

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Life and death in Pompeii and Herculaneum is at the heart of a new exhibition at the British Museum.

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For the first time in 40 years, parts of the preserved cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum are coming to London in a new exhibition at the British Museum. Over 450 objects are going on display, many of which haven't been seen outside Italy.

Pompeii and Herculaneum were the ill-fated cities on the Bay of Naples in southern Italy which were buried by the catastrophic volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

As both cities were unprepared for the event, the daily life of its citizens were preserved until discovery nearly 1700 years later.

The exhibition is curated by Dr Paul Roberts, who also acts as Senior Curator of Roman Archaeology at the British Museum.

[Dr Paul Roberts, Curator]:
"When we look at Pompeii and Herculaneum what we see are real people, ordinary cities. They weren't Rome, they weren't Alexandria, that's why they're so important to us, because when they were buried, Pompeii and Herculaneum preserved for us what life was like in two ordinary cities. They're quite different between themselves. Pompeii was a much bigger city, Herculaneum was a sea side resort if you like."

The exhibition is split into different areas of daily life, from the high street, to the living room, garden, and kitchen and contains tools and belongings of that time.

[Dr Paul Roberts, Curator]:
"They were things that people commissioned, bought, loved, enjoyed, used, handled. They were things that belonged in their homes and by looking at their possessions, we can look at the people behind the possessions."

Because of their geographical locations around Mount Vesuvius, both cities were buried in differing ways leading to art efacts being preserved or destroyed in different ways.

[Dr Paul Roberts, Curator]:
"Herculaneum was buried under a phenomenally hot avalanche of volcanic material, 400 degrees Centigrade - four times the heat of a boiling kettle."

The exhibition displays Herculaneum with a loaf of bread perfectly preserved in carbon, as well as furniture and finally a woman whose remains have been preserved.

[Dr Paul Roberts, Curator]:
"The Romans were not us, but there are so many points that we have in common and I hope that's what people will take away, the similarities to our lives today."

"Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum" runs at the British Museum from 28 March to 29 September.

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