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Herculaneum ruins #3

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Uploaded on Jan 1, 2012

Coastal Herculaneum, 12 km (8 miles) southeast of Naples, and its farther-inland sister city, Pompeii, 11 km (7 miles) southeast of Herculaneum, are situated on opposite sides of Mt. Vesuvius, Europe's only active continental volcano. The ruins of Herculaneum are often overlooked in favor of Pompeii when in fact the former is better preserved and easier to visit due to its compactness. The population of ancient Herculaneum, at 4,000, was only one-fifth that of its more famous but less exclusive counterpart.




Both middle-class Pompeii and more-upper-crust Herculaneum were destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in A. D. 79. However, Pompeii was covered with 2.5 meters (8 feet) of pumice and ash while Herculaneum was buried under almost 20 meters (65 feet) of fiery mud. The result was that organic matter such as wood later rotted away in Pompeii but was preserved in Herculaneum until excavations began there in the early eighteenth century. Also, Herculaneum is less of a ruin than Pompeii because the weight of the volcanic ash caused Pompeii's rooftops to collapse while the thick, 160-km-per-hour (100-mile-per-hour) pyroclastic flow which descended from Vesuvius and quickly entombed Herculaneum simply sealed up the town without causing too much structural damage to its buildings.

Today the partially-excavated site of Herculaneum is only 25 minutes from Naples and 45 minutes from Sorrento on the Circumvesuviana commuter train line. The excavated ruins lie just eight blocks from the Ercolano train station. On one side of a city street in Ercolano are modern dwellings while on the other side there is huge hole several stories deep with well-preserved villas and other buildings at the bottom.

The remarkable structures which have been uncovered at Herculaneum include the House of Neptune and Amphitrite with an atrium featuring a mosaic of Neptune and Amphitrite and another with a hunting scene. The Villa dei Papiri, which contains hundreds of papiri, was constructed by the father-in-law of Julius Caesar. The town also contained a tavern and a fast food outlet plus baths, a gymnasium and even an underground theatre.

Excavations in 1981 on the arched boat storehouses situated on the port side of the town revealed some 300 skeletons of unfortunate Herculaneum inhabitants who died instantly from extreme heat while sleeping there overnight, hoping to escape by sea the following day. While these corpses are not on display on the site, a cluster of ten was removed to the national museum of archeology in Naples.




For a different perspective on the ruins and vistas over the Bay of Naples, it is possible to reach the 1,281-meter (4,201-foot) summit of nearby Mt. Vesuvius which, by the way, has not erupted since 1944. Transportation is provided by.Vesuvio Express (www.vesuvioexpress.it) small vans from the Ercolano Scavi station on the Circumvesuviana train line and by Vesuviana Moblita buses from Pompeii. From the parking lot where the road dead ends high up on the mountain it is only a half-hour walk to the top.

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