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Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum Exhibition

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by Angela Lord (subscribe)
Freelance writer specialising in arts, travel and entertainment news, previews and reviews.
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Fasincating exhibition of Roman cities buried in time
Images: Portrait of baker Terentius Neo and his wife. Pompeii, AD 55–79. © DeAgostini/SuperStock.

Pompeii and Herculaneum, in southern Italy, were buried in the space of a day when Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79. This catastrophe preserved these two towns in time, until they were rediscovered by archaeologists and excavated around 1700 years later.

A major exhibition on these two sites opens at the British Museum on 28 March, giving a fascinating insight into life in Roman times. Many of the 250 objects on display have never before been seen outside Italy.

Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum said: "This will be a major exhibition for the British Museum in 2013, made possible through collaboration with the Archaeological Superintendency of Naples and Pompeii, with generous loans of precious objects from their collections."

Pompeii was a major industrial centre in the Bay of Naples, while Herculaneum was a smaller seaside town. Work continues at both sites and recent excavations at Herculaneum have uncovered beautiful artefacts including finely sculpted marble reliefs and carved ivory panels.

This exhibition will examine the different walks of life in Roman society: emperors, gladiators, businessmen, influential women, freed slaves and children, through art, artefacts and everyday objects.

One interesting example from Pompeii is a wall painting of the baker Terentius Neo and his wife, holding writing materials in a pose which suggests that they are literate, cultured, and equal partners, both in business and in life. (See above, Portrait of Terentius Neo and his wife. Pompeii, AD 55–79. © DeAgostini/SuperStock.)

Among the rarest finds are items of wooden furniture, carbonised by the immensely hot ash: a linen chest, an inlaid stool, a garden bench and a baby's crib that still rocks on its curved runners.

The exhibition will also include casts of some of the victims of the eruption, the most famous of these being of a dog, frozen in time as volcanic ash submerged the cities.

Exhibition runs from 28 March – 29 September 2013. Admission charge £15 plus a range of concessions. Tickets can be booked online or 44 (0)20 7323 8181. Opening hours 10.00–17.30 Saturday to Thursday and 10.00–20.30 on Fridays.
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Why? Exhibition on Pompeii
When: 28 March - 29 september 2013
Phone: 44 (0)20 7323 8181
Where: British Museum
Cost: £15 (concessions available)
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