Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Mediterranean Cruise - Day 6 - Naples

After the long day yesterday, we gave ourselves the luxury of sleeping in a little today.   So we rushed through getting ready, then went to the Lido buffet for breakfast.  Looking out the window, we are seeing Naples, Italy.  Our excursion for the day: Ancient Herculaneum - exploring the excavated town Herculaneum that was buried when Vesuvius erupted.

Morning in Naples, from the ship's observation deck.

Mount Vesuvius in the distance.
We traveled by bus down to the excavation site of Herculaneum.  The town was discovered in the 1700's when man was digging for water wells.  Conservationists then began a painstaking job of unearthing the town.  Herculaneum, unlike its more popular neighbor Pompeii, was a wealthy town.  They found homes indicating more wealth and power here.  Pompeii was buried in lava, as it was directly in the path of flow.  Herculaneum, as you can see in the image below, was west of the volcano and mostly avoided the lava flow.  Instead, it was buried 50-60 feet down by an ashen mudslide.

We walked onto a path that sits above the rim of the excavation area, and saw the whole site.  As you can see below, the town is located below grade.  The modern town, located above and behind is gradually being bought out and excavated.  About 75% of the town has yet to be uncovered.

At the time of eruption, Herculaneum was located right on the shore.  These archways seen in the above photo were right next to the water.   There were 300 skeletons found right next to the archways, as they waited in the boat bays for rescue by sea.  The townspeople had been incinerated by intense heat (>500 degrees F).  As a result of the mudslides that buried the town, the shoreline was extended nearly a mile outward.

Ok, so backing up a bit.  Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, after 800 years of dormancy.  I'm sure people in that time were most surprised when they saw smoke billowing out of the giant volcano towering over them.  At the time, the people occupying this area were toga-wearing Romans, probably with Greek ancestry.  Much of the decoration in the town supports this.

Large columns surrounding what was probably a courtyard of a home.

Remains of a wall painting and marble floor.

Large vats built into a counter top.  Probably used for food or water storage.

The streets had worn wheel markings, indicating a lot of traffic.  The streets were lower than the sidewalks and sloped to help with runoff and drainage.

A central cistern, collected rainwater and provided drinking water for the people.  Many houses had these.

An intricately-tiled dining room, with paintings on the walls.

Me listening to our guide through the radio hanging around my neck.  Made it easier to hear!

Today's temperatures were hot again (90 deg), and in the excavation site, there wasn't much shade or wind.  We were asked to leave our bags on the bus, so we didn't have water either.  I resorted to using my scarf to block the sun.  Chris thought I was funny and dubbed me "movie star Kristi".

Mosaic tile found in the women's bath house.

A wall mosaic in a home.  The work is just stunning, especially for being SO old.

Another area of mosaics.

Earthen pottery uncovered it what was probably some sort of store.

This picture shows the carbonized wood that was preserved when the mudslide covered the town.  It's petrified, if you will.
Amazing decoration for the hallway into a home.  And they're letting tourists walk on it!
How long must this tile work have taken?  Just amazing.

A plaque dedicating a community area to Caesar Augustus.

Murals in the community area.
It was an amazing tour.  I hope that the excavation continues, unearthing more of the fascinating history of this time.  We made it back to the ship, cooled off, and ate a burger by the pool.  Then we went up to the 11th floor crow's nest and I relaxed while Chris picked out a book from the ship's library.  We read for a while, then went to dinner in the main dining room.  We went up on deck to watch the boat pull out of Naples.  We're looking forward to tomorrow in Sicily!

1 comment:

  1. Love the sunset photos! Unbelievable that all that was covered for so many years and yet in such great shape!