Michael Glenister sent photos of a trip he took to the ancient volcanic areas of Italy: Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Mt. Vesuvius. This will be a two-parter, starting with both Herculaneum and Vesuvius; Pompeii will be the subject of a separate post.
Michael’s captions are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.
First, a bit of information. Herculaneum and Pompeii, ancient Roman towns close to each other, were both buried (and all their inhabitants killed) during the Eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Both were preserved nearly intact by being rapidly covered with ash. Here’s the location of all three places on a map of modern Italy.
On to Michael’s narrative:
I don’t have any new animal photos, but I did do a trip to Europe at the end of July, during which I climbed Mt. Vesuvius and visited Pompeii and Herculaneum. While I enjoyed the hike and visiting the ruins, I was a bit disappointed at the lack of volcano science in the area. If you visit Mt. St. Helens, the visitor centres are full of information about different types of volcanoes, the 1980 eruption, etc. The closest I saw about that at Vesuvius were little gift stands that sold samples of volcanic rock
The view of Herculaneum as you enter the site. It is definitely an excavation in progress.
One of the many streets in the town.
An example of the artwork inside one of the houses.
The shoreline has moved away from Herculaneum since the eruption. This is a look down at an area which would have been near the shore at the time, but unfortunately this section wasn’t open to tourists on the day we visited. Some of the inhabitants of the town sought shelter here when the eruption happened, but were entombed by the pyroclastic flow that buried the town. This gives you an idea of just how deep the ash layer was. (Later I’ll show photos of some of the skeletons that were visible in these chambers).
Examples of the artwork that was discovered during the excavation. I was surprised at the quality of the workmanship of some pieces.
The College of the Augustales. The Augustales were members of an order made up of freedmen that was dedicated to the imperial cult, and their college was built in Herculaneum while Augustus was still alive. Paintings showed mythological scenes such as the entrance of Hercules to Mount Olympus, accompanied by Hera, Athena, and Zeus.
Bus tours from the train station near Herculaneum, take you up near the summit of Vesuvius for a 2 hour hike to the top and back. I was a bit disappointed that there seemed to be nothing discussing the science of volcanism, nor the details of the events of the eruption of 79 AD. Just souvenir stands selling photos or wall plaques of the mountain, postcards, trinkets, and the occasional sample of volcanic rocks. Along the summit walk there were at least 5 souvenir stands. The bus ride was…entertaining…and apparently you needed over 5 years experience driving large (Greyhound?) buses before you are allowed to do the Vesuvius route. Think steep, narrow, roads with blind hairpin turns, and lots of traffic in both directions, so the driver has to use the horn a lot to warn oncoming traffic.
A view from the bus on the way up. I believe, but it wasn’t stated or explained, that the hills on the right of the photo are the remains of what was the edge of Vesuvius in 79 AD. So the mountain as we see it today was what was built up after the eruption.
A view of Naples from the mountain.
The summit of Vesuvius.
View from the summit looking toward Herculaneum. We are around cloud level, so the clouds blew in over the top as we hiked.
A fumerole in the crater. You could smell the sulfurous fumes at one point as you hiked around the summit.
View from the summit looking toward Pompeii.
One of the five or so souvenir stands along the summit. Note the phallus for sale. Pompeii was a port town, so lots of sailors visited, and consequently there were lots of brothels. A winged phallus was the symbol used to direct sailors to the brothels.