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A Day in Pompeii opens a window into another time

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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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"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.

Frescoes were commonly used to decorate the walls of private homes and public places during the period, and the exhibit includes many prime examples. There are also several sculptures, from marble busts like this to small cast idols of various household deities. The jewelry is astounding -- some of it engraved with mementos. An array of cooking and serving instruments illustrate what and how the citizens of Pompeii ate. 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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