Video and photos in HD I have made during my trip to the ancient Roman Empire town of Herculaneum in Italy in 2011. The video includes the following highlights: original wall paintings, houses, mosaics, frescoes, streets of Herculaneum, ruins, Casa di Nettuno e Anfitrite (House of Neptune and Amphitrite), Bottega del Lanarius (Lanarius Shop), Sede degli Augustali (Hall of the Augustals), Bottega ad Cucumas (Cucumas shop), Casa dell'Atrio a Mosaico (House of the Mosaic Atrium), Terrazza di M. Nonio Balbo (Terrace of M. Nonius Balbus), views of Mount (Volcano) Vesuvius.
As always thank you for watching and for your great comments!
Roberto from Switzerland (founder of the Swiss Travel Channel)
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Link to my channel: http://www.youtube.com/c/SwissTravelChannel
SwissTravelChannel is a YouTube channel of my holiday’s trips videos, taken all around the world since 2008. Some are for pure tourism and others are more of an adventure. The videos usually show the top best tourist attractions, the top things to do and top places to see. The goal is to inspire others on their next vacations. The videos can also be seen as a guide to have an idea of the main highlights and places to explore. I love to take pictures of the nature, traditions and different cultures, to search the must-see spots and show the essentials in my videos, for this reason I always try to create the perfect vacation. Traveling is more than a hobby for me, is a way of life.
Photocamera: Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100
Editing program: Magix Movie Edit
1. Entrance of the Gladiators by PhReyMusic
What Really Happened at Herculaneum?
A new study offers insight into the lives lost when Italy’s Mount Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79.
W hen Mount Vesuvius, on the west coast of Italy, first began its volcanic rumblings in A.D. 79, ash and white pumice deluged the surrounding region, including the famous city of Pompeii. Several hours later, the volcano belched up another phase of its eruption: a series of steaming toxic clouds of gas and rock called pyroclastic surges that heaved down the mountainsides, engulfing Pompeii and the nearby seaside town of Herculaneum.
M ost residents of Herculaneum had time to flee—but not all. Some 340 people perished in the town’s beach-side boathouses and on the beach itself.
H ow these unlucky souls died has been a mystery. The dominant theory, first proposed in 2001, suggests these people succumbed instantly to heat shock and that the surge was so intense their blood boiled and flesh vaporized.
B ut not everyone agrees. “The reality is that soft tissue does not instantly vaporize at any temperature,” says Tim Thompson, a biological anthropologist at Teesside University in the U.K. “I think there’s a general consensus among those who work on bone and remains that vaporization just doesn’t happen.”
The city of Herculaneum was, like Pompeii, destroyed by a volcanic eruption in A.D. 79. Andrew Fogg/Flickr
I n a new study, published this week in the journal Antiquity, Thompson and his colleagues offer a new analysis and theory as to how these people died—one that may change how we picture this iconic episode. The techniques they used are part of an emerging set of tools that allow anthropologists to investigate human remains exposed to high heat—as in cremation, for example—at an unprecedented level of detail.
I n their new study, Thompson and his colleagues looked at two main features of the bone samples: the presence of a protein called collagen and the crystal structure within bone. Collagen, the main protein in connective tissue, normally makes up about 20 percent of a bone’s weight but disappears when bones are heated. Yet the researchers found a good deal of it in most of the samples.
M eanwhile, they found that the organization of a calcium mineral called hydroxyapatite, which makes up the bulk of bone, didn’t change in the way one would expect had the bone been exposed to ultrahigh heat. Together, the findings hint that the victims’ soft tissue didn’t vanish in a flash but instead stayed intact for some time.
“ It’s an elegant approach to the question,” says Holger Schutkowski, a bioarchaeologist at Bournemouth University and a bone expert who was not involved in the study. The findings show, he says, that “as the assault lasted, the soft tissue cover was sufficient to protect the skeleton from thermal alteration.”
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E lżbieta Jaskulska, a biological anthropologist at the University of Warsaw in Poland who was also not involved in the study, expands on that image: “Just imagine how much muscle you have on your thigh,” she says. “It takes time to evaporate [the water from] all that muscle to get to the bone inside.”
T hompson and his colleagues further argue that the heat from the first and hottest pyroclastic surge would have taken time to penetrate the boathouse walls and then the soft tissues of people huddled together within it. They speculate that the people inside didn’t instantly vaporize but instead died more slowly, through asphyxiation as the dust and heat destroyed their airways.
H owever, the authors of the earlier vaporization theory are not swayed by Thompson’s new evidence. They stand by their earlier work, asserting that the posture of the bodies, the presence of iron deposits on the bones, and other evidence supports their theory.
Archaeologists have found the remains of many people who perished at Herculaneum in the city’s boathouses, which are featured here. Rachelle Martyn et al./Antiquity Publications Ltd.
T his week, they published a letter in the New England Journal of Medicine that describes what they believe is brain tissue from a male skeleton found in Herculaneum that vitrified—became glassy—upon exposure to high heat. “This confirms the people died very suddenly,” says Pier Paolo Petrone, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Naples Federico II and the lead author of that work.
T hompson agrees that the vitrified brain tissue is a fascinating find but says it’s a logical leap from there to vaporization. Perhaps, he argues, vitrification also occurs with prolonged exposure to lower heat.
W hat this debate lays bare is a long-standing challenge in studying burned bones. To overcome this obstacle, Thompson is one of a handful of researchers who has pioneered a toolbox of techniques for studying burned or heated bone.
T hompson calls it “the bioarchaeology of cremation,” and as this field has advanced in the past decade, researchers have begun to glean important clues about how ancient cultures lived and died. For example, two years ago, a group of anthropologists and geochemists applied these types of techniques to cremated What this debate lays bare is the long-standing challenge of studying burned bones. remains near Stonehenge to determine that builders of that structure were not local but likely migrated from Wales.
T he techniques also allow researchers to piece together details about how funerary rituals vary over time and across sites, and the role they play in different cultures. The tools may also be put to use in forensic analysis—for example, in analyzing natural or human-made disasters such as fires and terrorist attacks.
“ With the advancements in these methods, we can study [human remains] in a new way,” Thompson says, adding that it was especially gratifying to do so in the present work. “Everyone knows about Vesuvius everyone knows about Pompeii and Herculaneum. … There’s something personally very exciting about being able to contribute to that body of knowledge.”
Getting to Herculaneum: Herculaneum is about 12km south of Naples. There is parking outside the ruins (follow the signs for Ercolano Scavi) or it’s 10 minutes’ walk to the Circumvesuviana train station, which runs between Naples and Sorrento. There are two train stations in Herculaneum, the one for the ruins is Ercolano Scavi. There are also combined tours of Herculaneum and Pompeii/Vesuvius, which include transport.
Opening hours: The Herculaneum archaeological site is open from 8.30am to 7.30pm from April–October or 5pm from November–March, with the last admission 90 minutes before closing time.
Herculaneum tickets: You can buy tickets to Herculaneum online, though you need to choose a specific date. Entry costs €11 for adults, €5.50 for EU citizens aged 18–24 or free for EU citizens under 18. You can also get a three-day combined ticket which also covers Pompeii, Oplontis, Stabiae and Boscoreale for €22, though it’s not available online. There are also skip-the-line priority tickets if you don’t want to queue.
This article contains affiliate links, where I get a small commission at no extra cost to you – thanks.
At the time of discovery in the 18th century, archaeology did not exist as a field of study the accidental discoveries of Pompeii and Herculaneum propelled the development of this field. Parts of each site were ruined by original excavation in 1738 and prior, prompting visitors who came to Pompeii and Herculaneum on the Grand Tour to note its rather poor appearances. Although they were intrigued by the ancient monuments and objects, the majority of the people were dissatisfied by the methods. However, that would soon change as the experiences at Pompeii and Herculaneum instigated archaeological studies. The early excavations by Alcubierre were done with little thinking of the historical content he had just unearthed. Since no tools had yet been created in order to maximize the efficiency of the dig, he dug at what seemed to be the easiest access point to the artifact. relying on old wells and lines of masonry to dig. 1 Furthermore, Alcubierre and his team would go into the field without a plan, only looking for objects that seemed to be of value. The Italians used cheap labor, the majority of the time hiring people who had no skill in art or engineering. Sir William Hamilton described the process as slow and grueling, short on labor, and poorly excavated. In one instance, Hamilton noticed the “dilatory and slovenly manner in which they proceed in the researches at Herculaneum and Pompeii… they employ about 10 or 12 men only.” 2 In addition to the techniques employed, the appreciation for classical antiquity was also called into question. Winckelmann, who observed the excavation process extensively in person, criticized Alcubierre’s incompetence as an archaeologist in his Letter and Report on the Discoveries at Herculaneum. In regards to Alcubierre’s care for the artifacts found, Winckelmann noted “without first recording the inscription, they ripped the letters from the wall, threw them all together into a basket.” 3 By writing about these sites and antiquity found, Winckelmann and Hamilton paved the way for curiosity on the style and mediums that the ancient people used and thus a shift in archaeological purposes.
Archaeology in the early 18th century transformed from being purely political, to a scientific study of the past. The prince at Portici sought the marble objects because they were incredibly valuable, while King Charles VII was interested in only the objects that could easily be excavated to be placed in the royal museum and palace. 4 In the early 1700’s, the engineers who recovered important pieces of antiquity purposely destroyed objects to prevent other people from getting them, as the objects were symbolic of a nation’s power. 5
Though archaeology had occurred for centuries, the discoveries of Pompeii and Herculaneum initiated a new era in archaeology. Better tools were created to dig through ancient material, following the excavations by Alcubierre. The pick and shovel once used to dig at these sites are now supplemented by saws, and compressed air-drills, while skilled laborers, such as carpenters and bronze-castors are necessary to recover the unearthed paintings and mosaics. 6 The changes in excavation techniques were parallel to the changes in archaeological purpose. A more thorough dig meant better preservation of the antiques, allowing Grand Tourists to view the objects and study them first hand. Instead of looking at art as objects for display, intellectuals began to look at antiquity through a different lens, analyzing the historical context and people who lived through the art.
1. Christopher Charles, Parslow. Rediscovering Antiquity Karl Weber and the Excavation of Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Stabiae, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 31
2. Nancy H. Ramage, “Goods, Graves, and Scholars:18th-Century Archaeologists in Britain and Italy,” American Journal of Archaeology 96, no. 4 (1992): 654, accessed May 8, 2017, http://www.jstor.org/stable/505190
3. Johann Joachim, Winckelmann, Letter and Report on the Discoveries at Herculaneum, ed. Carol C. Mattusch, (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2011), 76
4. Charlotte, Roberts, "Living with the Ancient Romans: Past and Present in Eighteenth-Century Encounters with Herculaneum and Pompeii." Huntington Library Quarterly 78, No. 1 (2015): 67, accessed March 19, 2017, https://0-muse.jhu.edu.luna.wellesley.edu/article/610794
6. Joseph Jay, Deiss, Herculaneum: Italy's Buried Treasure. (New York: Harper and Row, 1985), 32
ɾxtraordinary' Roman villa reopened to public in Herculaneum
An ancient Roman house has reopened to the public in the archaeological park of Herculaneum, the town near Naples buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD79.
Considered the site’s most noble Roman villa, the House of the Bicentenary had been under restoration for 35 years. The three-storey, 600 sq metre domus, which contains stunning frescoes and mosaic floors, was discovered in 1938, 200 years after excavations at the site began, but closed to the public in 1983 after falling into disrepair.
“This is an important result,” Dario Franceschini, the Italian culture minister, said during a ceremony to open the home on Wednesday. “An extraordinary monument, which had fallen into a state of neglect, is again accessible to visitors.”
A restorer works on a fresco inside the House of the Bicentenary. Photograph: Ciro de Luca/Reuters
The frescoes depicting mythological scenes, one of Venus and Mars and one of Daedalus and Pasiphaë, along with paintings of Dionysian themes, were said to have been common features in the homes of rich people in Herculaneum. The site is much smaller and less well known than neighbouring Pompeii, but the town is said to have been inhabited by wealthier residents and therefore contained a bigger share of lavish houses. It was also a hub for wealthy Romans who ventured there in summer to enjoy its beach.
Herculaneum was buried under about 15 metres (48ft) of volcanic ash until it was rediscovered during the digging of a well in the early 18th century. Most of its residents are said to have escaped before Mount Vesuvius erupted, although 400 well-preserved skeletons were found in 1980.
Excavations have been particularly challenging as the site lies beneath the modern town of the same name. Other discoveries have included organic matter of fruit and bread as well as wooden furniture and ancient scrolls that were carbonised by the heat and ash. Scientists said earlier this month there might still be hope that the fragile scrolls could once again be read thanks to an innovative approach involving high-energy x-rays and artificial intelligence.
The House of the Bicentenary was discovered in 1938, but was closed to the public in 1983 after falling into disrepair. Photograph: Ciro de Luca/Reuters
There is still a significant portion of Herculaneum, which attracts 500,000 visitors a year compared with Pompeii’s 4 million, that needs to be excavated.
Both sites continue to fascinate archaeologists and the general public. A well-preserved fresco depicting fighting gladiators was unearthed at Pompeii in early October. The discovery was found as archaeologists wrapped up excavations in Regio V, a 21.8-hectare (54 acres) site to the north of the archaeological park that is yet to open to the public. The fresco was found on a wall beneath the stairwell of what was probably a tavern frequented by gladiators and which provided accommodation on a higher floor for them to sleep with sex workers.
Excavations have yielded dozens of other discoveries since work began at Regio V last year as part of the EU-funded Great Pompeii Project. A frescoed “fast food” counter, or thermopolium, was found in March and another depicting the mythological hunter Narcissus enraptured by his own reflection in a pool of water was discovered in February. Human remains have also been found, including the skeletons of two women and three children huddled together in a villa, as well as the remains of a harnessed horse and saddle.
Franceschini said money would continue to be invested in both Herculaneum and Pompeii.
“Research is being done at Herculaneum, services have improved and it is a wonderfully attractive place,” he added. “What has been happening at the brightest spot, Pompeii, in recent years has also happened at Herculaneum and we will continue to invest.”
Very old things today. First, took the circumvesuviana train way towards Naples to see Herculaneum. Herculaneum is just like Pompeii, but with much better buildings and not body casts. Herculaneum was a smaller city than Pompeii, and most people were able to evacuate, except for about 300 by the seashore, who were apparently died of instant vaporization by a heat wall. The lava was very deep here, covering houses above roof level. This left some houses almost completely standing, with wooden balconies, mosaics, and frescoes. Then a few stops down the metro to Villa Oplantis, which is a very fancy, huge Roman villa. It’s basically intact, with the wall frescoes mostly preserved by the lava. The Villa was mostly empty, which is a shame. It was at least as worthwhile as Herculaneum, to see the frescoes. You can be right next to the brushstrokes making a flower that some guy painted 2000 years ago, which were then covered by lava. The amazing thing is that nothing is behind glass, you’re just walking through this house with wall paintings.
Then the fastest stop at Pompeii ever, since I had a free ticket that was expiring that day. Spent 15 max, then back to Sorrento to catch a bus to Positano.
This bus was very scary. It takes the Amalfi drive, which is very tall cliff with a road on top of it. One sight was a glimpse of the wall of a valley full of bathtubs. Strange. The bus was a strange mix of tourists going to Amalfi and Positano, and locals using it as normal transportation. We walked down the hill to the pedestrian town center, then ate by the ocean. Another very, very scenic town. Then, a wait by a random wall for the bus back to Sorrento. Sat with a bunch of people speaking mostly Spanish, with some Italian mixed in. Not sure where they were from. There were also three Chinese girls who kept standing in the middle of the dark mountain road, scaring some drivers coming around the bend. Then a limoncello at the square in Sorrento to end the day.
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Can technology unravel the secrets sealed by Mt. Vesuvius 2,000 years ago?
You've heard of Pompeii, the ancient Roman city destroyed when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79. Less well known is the neighboring city of Herculaneum, also buried by the volcano. When the city was re-discovered in the 1700s, excavators found what could be the richest repository of ancient Western wisdom: a library filled with papyrus scrolls. Scholars think there could be unknown Greek and Latin masterpieces, possibly early Christian writings, even the first references to Jesus. The problem is, the volcanic heat left the scrolls so charred and brittle, no one has been able to open them without breaking them into pieces. We heard three scholars might finally have found a way to unravel the mystery of the scrolls. So we traveled to Italy to see what we could uncover about the scrolls of Herculaneum.
The Italian city of Ercolano sits along the Bay of Naples on the western slope of Mt. Vesuvius. The city bustles with the chaos of Italian traffic and the easy flow of Italian life. It's not a wealthy place, but beneath these narrow streets lies buried treasure, the ancient Roman seaside town of Herculaneum entombed along with Pompeii in A.D. 79. The modern city is built on top of the ancient city.
Herculaneum and Vesuvius CBS News
Andrew Wallace Hadrill: There's no archeological site in the world that matches this.
We went to Herculaneum with Andrew Wallace Hadrill, founding director of the Herculaneum Conservation Project. He showed us around the excavation site in all its ghostly grandeur.
Bill Whitaker: What do you think is going on here? Were they trying to escape? Were they hiding?
Andrew Wallace Hadrill: In my view, they're not trying to get away by sea, they're simply trying to take shelter under these vaults.
Vesuvius blasted the town with successive, massive surges of heat and ash for 24 hours.
Andrew Wallace Hadrill: Those surges, they kill all human life and all other forms of life. And then, wave after wave, they begin to build up these layers of ash, that compacts into rock.
Bill Whitaker: Until we have this?
Andrew Wallace Hadrill: Yeah.
Bill Whitaker: Eighty feet of--
Andrew Wallace Hadrill: Eighty feet of solid rock.
Bill Whitaker: That ended up preserving this place so well?
Andrew Wallace Hadrill: Yeah, the paradox is that catastrophic destruction is also exceptionally good preservation.
Preserving Herculaneum like a fossil in amber &ndash everything frozen in time, forgotten for nearly 17 centuries until, legend has it, a farmer digging a well struck the past.
Andrew Wallace Hadrill: They've built a really big public building here.
Hadrill told us Herculaneum was like the Malibu of the Roman Empire &ndash oasis for the elite. Early excavators discovered this once opulent villa. Today it looks like a cave.
Andrew Wallace Hadrill and correspondent Bill Whitaker in front of a wall of rock that was once layers of ash CBS News
In A.D. 79 it looked like this. The Getty Villa in Malibu, California is a re-creation of the summer retreat thought to belong to the family of Julius Caesar. Tunneling around in the ancient villa in Italy, early treasure hunters dug out statues and riches enough to fill a grand room in the Naples Museum. But the greatest treasures don't look valuable at all. These are the papyrus scrolls of Herculaneum, 1,800 ancient books written on sheets of plant fiber, flash seared by the volcanic heat, found in the only remaining intact library from the ancient world.
Bill Whitaker: So where was the library?
Massimo Osanna: The library was there.
The precarious villa excavation site is off limits to the public. But Massimo Osanna, former administrator of Herculaneum and Pompeii, took us deep inside.
Bill Whitaker: The library itself has not been excavated like this?
He said there could be hundreds more scrolls yet to be unearthed.
Bill Whitaker: Back in here, in the library?
Massimo Osanna: It's a possibility. Maybe Aristotle. Who knows?
Massimo Osanna: For example.
Scholars have been trying desperately to open the scrolls since they were discovered.
Brent Seales CBS News
Brent Seales: The history of the unwrapping of the Herculaneum Scrolls is littered with failures. Everyone who had tried to open the scrolls had left behind a hideous trail of fragmentary result.
Brent Seales, a brash computer scientist from the New World &ndash the University of Kentucky to be precise &ndash had what he thought was a brilliant idea to solve the 2,000-year-old mystery: use modern medical imaging technology.
Brent Seales: People were going to the doctor every day. And they were doing a CT scan or an MRI. And they were seeing inside their body completely non-invasively. If you can do that to a human in the doctor's office, why couldn't we see inside a scroll? That was the thinking.
Bill Whitaker: Didn't think it was that farfetched?
In the arcane world where academics spend their entire careers poring over fragments of ancient texts, Brent Seales is a superstar. He made his name digitally restoring damaged medieval manuscripts with software he'd designed. A colleague told him about the scrolls of Herculaneum, most housed at the library of Naples, a few others in France and England. He considered them the ultimate challenge.
Brent Seales: The people are gone. The cultures are gone. The places are gone. And yet, like a time capsule, you have this item that tells a story.
Bill Whitaker: All locked away in that thing that looks like a little lump of charcoal.
Brent Seales: They're all locked away.
He knew imaging technology could only reveal a jumble of letters like this. To actually read the scrolls he'd have to unroll them &ndash much like this medieval French scroll at the Morgan Library in Manhattan &ndash but he'd have to do this virtually. After years of trial and error, he and his students thought they'd cracked the code, with algorithms and software. He was cocky enough to announce at Oxford to an international conference of scholars who study ancient papyrus &ndash that he could do what no one else had done.
Brent Seales: I swung for the fence. I gave them a talk where I said, "I think we can read everything inside the Herculaneum Scrolls without opening them."
Bill Whitaker: Did you think the papyrologists would come running to you with their scrolls and say, "Here. Here. Take a look at these?"
Brent Seales: I smile now because that is exactly what I thought.
Bill Whitaker: Didn't happen.
Bill Whitaker: So how hard is it to get your hands on these scrolls?
Brent Seales: I would say somewhere in the vicinity of near impossible.
One of the scrolls CBS News
That's because they're so rare and so fragile curators are reluctant to let anyone handle them &ndash including a superstar like Brent Seales. They wouldn't relent even after he published a paper theorizing a better way to peer inside the scrolls &ndash with this: a synchrotron, a super powerful X-ray generated by electrons racing around this ring at almost the speed of light. There are only about 50 in the world. This one is in Britain. The X-ray is this green beam, 100-billion times stronger than any hospital X-ray. Maybe it's coincidence, but shortly after Seales published his pioneering paper, two Italian scholars stepped forward and claimed they'd had the same idea to use a synchrotron. Vito Mocella, a physicist from Naples, says he first learned about the scrolls as a child.
Vito Mocella: I cannot remember exactly the age, but nine, 10.
And Graziano Ranocchia a papyrologist &ndash he studies ancient Roman papyrus. He pores over bits of Herculaneum scrolls at the Naples Library. Most are fragments of Greek philosophy.
Graziano Ranocchia: I am coming here and working on these papyri every day.
Call it academic competition, call it ego, but American Brent Seales, Ranocchia, the papyrologist and Italian physicist Mocella became fierce competitors -- all fighting to make history as the first to reveal the contents of the scrolls &ndash a gladiatorial wrestling match in the hallowed halls of the Ivory Tower. Ranocchia accuses Mocella of sabotaging his research. Seales is convinced the Italians poached his idea to use the synchrotron. The mystery of the scrolls is playing out like some tragic Italian opera.
Brent Seales: You know, they say, Bill, that the reason academics argue is because the stakes are so low. Right? The stakes actually are really high. If you think about the possibility of revealing these manuscripts to the world from 2,000 years ago that no one's ever read. And, okay. So now we're gonna argue with each other? Really? I mean, maybe we could do that later after we've read them.
But the two Italian rivals used their European connections and convinced curators to let each of them &ndash and only them &ndash have limited access to a few scrolls to scan with the synchrotron. They leapfrogged over American Brent Seales and raced to this one in Grenoble, France. Mocella got there first.
It was hard for us to make out, but he said his scan revealed letters.
Bill Whitaker: These are letters?
Vito Mocella: Si. Queste sono lettere.
Yes, he said, these are letters. Mocella won international praise and headlines as the first person to see inside one of the ancient scrolls of Herculaneum. When Papyrologist Ranocchia scanned his scrolls, he said he did Mocella one better.
Bill Whitaker: Has anyone else found anything as clear as this?
Graziano Ranocchia: Nothing like this.
Graziano Ranocchia: Peys theye, namely, "They would be persuaded." This is a--
Bill Whitaker: Would be persuaded.
Graziano Ranocchia: Yeah, right.
Brent Seales is not persuaded.
Bill Whitaker: You don't believe that?
Brent Seales: Hey, I engage in wishful thinking all the time. But at the end of the day, I'm a scientist. And wishful thinking is-- is not what science is based on. I was unable to replicate their results. And so far I've not heard from anyone who's been able to replicate them.
But with their findings published in scientific journals, the Italian scholars savored their achievements. Mocella considers Brent Seales' criticism sour grapes.
Bill Whitaker: Brent Seales looked at your latest findings and he says he doesn't see any letters.
Vito Mocella: I know, I don't know why.
Bill Whitaker: You don't know why?
Vito Mocella: I don't know why.
Brent Seales: I guess my threshold is somewhat different. When I see writing, you know, it should line up. It should be more than a letter or two. You ought to be able to see text that looks like something you can actually read.
Since he couldn't get access to the Herculaneum scrolls, Seales looked elsewhere to prove his algorithms and software. That led him to Jerusalem and this charred fragment, a 1,700-year-old scroll from a burned synagogue near the Dead Sea.
Brent Seales: Is there a line up here?
Israeli archaeologists didn't expect much, but what Seales' software revealed was like a miracle.
Bill Whitaker: What was it?
Brent Seales: Well, it was the Bible.
He resurrected all the surviving Hebrew script, the oldest text of the Bible as we know it today.
Brent Seales: The first two chapters of Leviticus in a scroll that, prior to that-- was assumed to be nothing or so badly damaged no one would ever know.
Bill Whitaker: This is what you hope to see in the Herculaneum scrolls?
Brent Seales: Absolutely. This is actually an identifiable text.
Following his breakthrough in Jerusalem, even Graziano Rannochia admits Brent Seales' software is brilliant. Now the Naples library, which wouldn't let Seales get his hands on the scrolls, is considering granting him access. He's convinced the secrets of Herculaneum, locked away in the scrolls for 2,000 years, are just within reach.
Produced by Marc Lieberman and Sabina Castelfranco. Associate producer, Michael Kaplan.
On August 24 th , 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius awoke, a volcano once thought to be extinct erupted covering the surrounding cities and those that remained in it with pumice, ash and debris (Cameron, 2006). A rich description of the Mount Vesuvius eruption day events has been discovered through the archaeological evidence and the use of written letters of an eyewitness. Pliny the Younger wrote letters to Tacitus the senator and historian describing what he saw the day of the eruption (Capasso, 1998). If you wish to read the translated letters of Pliny the Younger to Tacitus, click here or click on the tab in the menus bar under Eruption of Mount Vesuvius of 79 AD.
An easy way to understand the events on the eruption day is to do so in a chronological order, using the initial eruption and the seven following pyroclastic surges at pivotal points in where destruction escalated to the surrounding cities.
Initial Eruption – According to Pliny, the eruption began around 2 or 3 PM. However, according to archaeological evidence, we now know that the eruption occurred closer to 1 PM. The eruption caused the sky of the surrounding cities to fill with ash, pumice
Pumice is a volcanic stone that is porous and spongy.
and debris (Cameron, 2006). Inhabitants in both the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum began to evacuate. The citizens were described as being worried but not frantic (Capasso, 2001). Some individuals in Pompeii were described as having pillows tied to their heads to avoid being hit by falling pumice (Luke, 2013: 1-2). The majority of citizens left but there were those who chose to remain in the area and seek shelter, which would prove to be a fatal mistake.
Pyroclastic surge/ flow – A dense, destructive mass of very hot ash, lava fragments, and gases ejected explosively from a volcano and typically flowing at great speed (Oxford Dictionary)
Red shows pyroclastic surge impact area and Black shade shows Ash dispersal range.
First & Second – The first and second surge struck Herculaneum 12 hours after the initial eruption. On August 25 at approximately 1 AM, the volcano column collapsed causing the first surge sending extremely hot ash, gas, and rock towards Herculaneum. Burning cloud rushed through the town of Herculaneum killing all life instantly (Capasso, 2001). The cloud gained speed when it reached the cliff to the beach, killing the people hidden inside waterfront shelters. The cloud was estimated to be at the speed of 50 mph and a temperature of 500°C (Mastrolorenzo, 2001)
Third – This surge headed down the southeast side of the volcano towards Pompeii but only reached the walls.
Fourth – This is the surge that reached Pompeii and wiped out Pompeii causing massive destruction and death to any living thing still in the vicinity.
Fifth & Sixth – These were the most powerful surges, falling just short of reaching the town of Misenum.
By 8 AM, Pompeii, Herculaneum, and the surrounding countryside were covered in ash. The major cause of death was pyroclastic surges (causing asphyxiation and thermal shock) and falling pumice (Luke, 2013: 1-2).
This Video is a digital animation of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD from Pompeii perspective.
Please check out the Interactive Eruption of presented National Geography for a fun visual learning experience.
Sacks of Human Waste Reveal Secrets of Ancient Rome
Giant chamber in volcano-smothered town held clues to daily life.
You might turn your nose up at sifting through hundreds of sacks of human excrement, but researchers are doing just that in Italy—and happily.
The unprecedented deposit is said to be yielding new insights into everyday life in the ancient Roman Empire.
Admittedly, at 2,000 years old, the feces "isn't remotely unpleasant," Roman historian Andrew Wallace-Hadrill said. "There's absolutely no scent. It's exactly like earth compost."
Ten tons of the stuff has been excavated from a cesspit beneath the ancient town of Herculaneum, near Naples.
Flushed down sewers from apartment blocks and shops, the deposit—the largest collection of ancient Roman garbage and human waste ever found, researchers say—dates to about A.D. 79. That year a catastrophic volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius buried Herculaneum, along with its more famous neighbor, Pompeii.
Lost jewelry, coins, and semiprecious stones from a gem shop have been found, along with discarded household items such as broken lamps and pottery, according to Wallace-Hadrill, director of the Herculaneum Conservation Project, a Packard Humanities Institute initiative.
And, coming from a onetime district of shopkeepers and artisans, the organic material has revealed just what your run-of the-mill Roman might have eaten in this coastal town, according to project scientists, who collaborated with the British School at Rome and the archaeological authorities for Naples and Pompeii.
Seeds, bones, shell fragments, and other remains suggest Herculaneum residents had a diverse diet, which included chicken, mutton, fish, fig, fennel, olive, sea urchin (pictures), and mollusk. (Read more about ancient treats.)
"This is absolutely standard diet for ordinary people in the town," Wallace-Hadrill said.
"It's a jolly good diet—any doctor would recommend it," he added.
While stuffed dormice and other such culinary delicacies of the Roman elite are well known from the historical record, less is known about standard Roman food, Wallace-Hadrill noted.
"It's very good to get a feeling for what the basics actually were."
"Foul Stuff" Revealing Roman Life
Measuring some 230 feet (70 meters) long, one meter (three feet) wide, and about seven to ten feet (two to three meters) tall, the large underground structure was first thought to be part of Herculaneum's drainage system. However, no outlet was found.
"All the foul stuff from the latrines and all the rubbish thrown down the chute accumulate and compost, as in a septic tank," Wallace-Hadrill said.
The waste was excavated and put through a series of graded sieves by a team led by Mark Robinson of the University of Oxford.
The first sieving captured larger objects such as pottery and bone. The second caught smaller objects, including nuts and seeds.
"It's in these progressive stages that, bit by bit, you capture more and more information," Wallace-Hadrill said.
Future microscopic analysis of bits of the ancient Roman stool could reveal evidence of disease, such as bacterial or parasitic infections, he added.
So far, only 70 of the 774 sacks of human waste—bagged by researchers over the past decade—have been examined.
"If you looked in detail at everything," he said, "it would take a lifetime."
Herculaneum was an ancient Roman town destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 79 AD
Herculaneum was an ancient Roman town of 4,000-5,000 inhabitants, and is located in Italy. It lay 5 miles southeast of Naples in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, and was destroyed by volcanic pyroclastic flows in 79 AD together with Pompeii, Torre Annunziata, and Stabiae. Its ruins are located in the commune of Ercolano, Campania.
The buildings at the site are grouped in blocks. Photo Credit
It was submerged in a 16m-thick sea of mud that essentially fossilized the city. Unlike at Pompeii, the deep pyroclastic material which covered it preserved wooden and other organic-based objects, such as doors, roofs, and beds.
Individual buildings having their own entrance number. Photo Credit
Recently, archaeologists discovered 300 skeletons near the shoreline the remains of a crowd that had fled to the beach only to succumb to the terrible heat of the ash clouds surging down from Vesuvius. It was thought until then that the town had been evacuated by its inhabitants.
The skeletons were found in the Boat houses of the city. Photo Credit
Herculaneum was originally discovered when a wall was being dug in the 18th century. Photo Credit
Herculaneum was originally discovered when a well was being dug in 1709 to a depth of 50-60 feet below the modern surface. By 1927, serious archeological work had begun, although with much of the ancient site buried beneath modern Ercolano it’s slow going.
Herculaneum was a wealthier town than Pompeii. Photo Credit
According to tradition, the name of the city was connected with the name of the Greek Herakles, known as Hercules in Roman mythology, an indication that the city was of Greek origin. It is believed that one of the first settlements at the site of what would become Herculaneum was founded by the forefathers of the Samnite tribes.
Other important deities were Venus and Apollo. Photo Credit
Soon after, the town came under Greek control and was used as a trading post because of its proximity to the Gulf of Naples. In the 4 th century BC, the city again came under the control of the Samnites and remained under their dominion until it became a Roman municipium in 89 BC.
Neptune and Salacia wall mosaic in House Number 22. Photo Credit
At around 1pm on the 24th of August, Vesuvius began spewing volcanic ash thousands of meters into the sky, and by the end of the day Herculaneum had been wiped off the map.
In the twentieth century excavation once again resumed in the town. Photo Credit
A large number of artifacts from Herculaneum are preserved in the Naples National Archeological Museum. In 2012, Herculaneum became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.