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A Day in Pompeii opens a window into another time

Body cast of a young woman from A Day in Pompeii.
Body cast of a young woman from A Day in Pompeii.
William Starling/Denver Museum of Nature and Science

The Romans living in Pompeii in AD 79 were utterly unprepared for the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which buried the city in ash -- and preserved it almost untouched for 1,700 years. In A Day at Pompeii, which opened this past weekend at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, you can get up close to artifacts that are close to two thousand years old, and capture the day-to-day life of an ancient society.

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A display of coins found in the ashes, from base metals to gold, many perfectly preserved.
A display of coins found in the ashes, from base metals to gold, many perfectly preserved.
Eric Workman

"They're real artifacts from Pompeii that have been uncovered, and they're spectacular," says Samantha Richards, an educator at the museum. "To me, the most compelling thing is that these are objects that were part of people's lives almost 2,000 years ago in Pompeii, and they're not that different from things we have in our lives. There are pots that would have been used to store makeup, and a comb and mirrors that could have belonged to a woman in Pompeii who liked to put makeup on and fix her hair before leaving the house, just like women today. It humanizes the event, and the artifacts make you think about the person they belonged to."

The exhibit includes touch carts and historial re-enactors who help bring the city to life, as well as audio tours for families and adults in both Spanish and English that provide additional content. Apart from the artifacts of daily life -- which include dice sets, lead pipes and plumbing equipment, furniture, religious items, cooking implements and more -- there also are casts of the bodies that were found buried in ash, some even capturing the folds of clothing on their bodies. And the artwork on display is beautifully preserved and abundant.

Sisyphus, Bacchus and Ariadne detail in a fresco at A Day in Pompeii
Sisyphus, Bacchus and Ariadne detail in a fresco at A Day in Pompeii
Amber Taufen

Frescoes were commonly used to decorate the walls of private homes and public places during the period, and the exhibit includes many prime examples.

A marble bust from A Day in Pompeii
A marble bust from A Day in Pompeii
William Starling/Denver Museum of Nature and Science

There are also several sculptures, from marble busts like this to small cast idols of various household deities.

 

Jewelry display from A Day in Pompeii.
Jewelry display from A Day in Pompeii.
Eric Workman

The jewelry is astounding -- some of it engraved with mementos.

Serving dishes wee among the many personal effects found in the ashes of Pompeii, on display in A Day in Pompeii.
Serving dishes wee among the many personal effects found in the ashes of Pompeii, on display in A Day in Pompeii.
William Starling/Denver Museum of Nature and Science

An array of cooking and serving instruments illustrate what and how the citizens of Pompeii ate.

Oysters and a peach pit were some of the food artifacts preserved in the ashes.
Oysters and a peach pit were some of the food artifacts preserved in the ashes.
Amber Taufen
Body cast, found in a gymnasium, of a man sitting with his back against a wall and his knees drawn up.
Body cast, found in a gymnasium, of a man sitting with his back against a wall and his knees drawn up.
Eric Workman

Videos and dioramas throughout the exhibit illustrate life in Pompeii -- including a video depicting the destruction of the city from the volcano's eruption on August 24, 79 AD, until it was completely buried in ash the next morning.

The show runs through January 13, 2013.


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Denver Museum of Nature and Science

2001 Colorado Blvd.
Denver, CO 80205

303-370-6000

www.dmns.org


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