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Pompeii: The Exhibition, opened on October 6, 2018 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California. Featuring over 150 authentic artifacts on loan from the renowned Naples National Archaeological Museum in Italy. It’s important to note these are not replicas, but originals! Preserved in ash for 2,000 years, several artifacts are on display. Including wall-sized frescos, marble and bronze sculptures, jewelry, ancient Roman coins, and full body casts of the volcano’s victims. I’ve been planning on visiting for a while now and wanted to before it closes on April 21st. So, is the exhibit on Pompeii worth visiting?
The Pompeii Exhibit
Starting with the daily life of the city, The Pompeii: The Exhibition shows how it was once a bustling commercial port, as well as a strategic military and trading center. Telling the tale of Pompeii prior to its destruction. What they ate, their use of healthcare, what their houses looked like, and whom they worshiped. Not much has changed in some instances surprisingly. For example, their cookware, medical supplies, fishing tools, bottles, jewelry, and furniture don’t differ much from our modern-day tools. Of course they used different methods and materials to create these products. But in their design and use, there isn’t much of a difference. A piggy bank was on display, looking a lot like a simple one you could buy today.
As I mentioned above, more than 150 artifacts are on display at the Pompeii exhibit: mosaics and frescoes, gladiator armor, weapons, a ship’s anchor, ceramics, plates, furniture, jewelry, medical instruments and tools. Rediscovered over 250 years ago, it’s easy to forget they were hidden and forgotten about for centuries.
Pompeii’s Final Hours
As part of the Pompeii exhibit is an immersive CGI experience, observe the progression of the city’s final day. With Vesuvius in the background and the city in the foreground, you see how it would have been for a citizen. It was an incredibly powerful experience. A large screen that plays thru August 24, 79 A.D., hour by hour.
Days before the eruption there had been earthquakes. No alarm was raised however, as the locals were used to them. The video starts off with some rumbles the morning of. Around mid-morning Mount Vesuvius erupts. A couple of hours in, buildings are on fire. Molten rock and pumice were then expelled at a rate of 1.5 million tons per second.
The video darkens as rocks and volcanic ash fill the atmosphere, turning day into night. Wafts of smoke come from both sides of the screen. Within 24 hours, the Roman city of Pompeii lay destroyed and covered under 15 feet of ash and volcanic debris. It is estimated that about 16,000 people died in the eruption. They said that within a few years many had forgotten where Pompeii even was.
“Not the darkness of a cloudy night or a night where there is no moon, but darkness as if the light had gone out in a room that is locked and sealed.” – Pliny the Younger (eyewitness)
The People of Pompeii
After the video concludes, the screen is raised and the body of a woman is revealed (seen above). After watching how a city could be wiped away in a matter of 24 hours, it was extremely powerful to see this human being face down trying to protect herself. Thru scientific research, they found that the woman before us was probably pregnant.
“Though some prayed to the gods, most felt as if the gods had abandoned them.” – Pliny the Younger
As excavators uncovered human remains, they noticed that the skeletons were surrounded by voids in the compacted ash. The voids were made by the hardened ash around the disintegrated bodies of the victims. These full body casts were created by carefully pouring plaster into the hollows. Eerily preserving the citizens in their final moments.
Seen above is a child who was found in the House of the Golden Bracelet alongside its mother, father, and sibling. Perhaps three or four years old, the folds in its tunic and facial expression were preserved, making it one of the best preserved casts in Pompeii. The Crouched Man, seen below, was found on the grounds of the grand palaestra, or exercise grounds. He’s also known as the “muleteer” for the mule or donkey that was found nearby. This man crouched low to the ground and pulled his cloak over his mouth to shield himself from the vapors of Vesuvius.
Discovering the City
After the discovery of frescoes in 1599 while digging a well, further exploration of the area took place. Excavations began in the 1700s. In 1748 when explorers examined the site, they found that the volcanic ash had acted as a preservative. Many of the buildings, skeletons, and remnants of city life were still intact. Providing historians with a glimpse into what life was like in ancient Rome. Hence why it’s such an important find for the world over. Even thought the city has been excavated for hundreds of years, scientists believe that almost 25% of the city is still undisturbed.
How to Buy Pompeii Tickets Online
So, is Pompeii: The Exhibition worth visiting? I’d definitely say so. I learned a lot about the culture and citizens of the historical city. I really only knew about the destruction of the city before visiting. Now, I have a much better understanding of the historical significance and the time prior to the devastation. As a reminder, Pompeii The Exhibition closes on April 21st so hurry! If you’re in the Los Angeles/Simi Valley area, make your way over to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum to see it. You can buy Pompeii tickets online ahead of time or at the museum.