"A Day in Pompeii" at the Museum of Science in Boston
|Cast of the skeletal remains of 32 people, including 9 children, found outside the nearby city of Herculaneum.|
With exhibitions running concurrently at the Musée Maillol in Paris and the Museum of Science in Boston, Pompeii, the ancient city that was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79, is a hot topic. The exhibition in Paris offers visitors the opportunity to discover a typical Pompeian home furnished with more than 200 pieces from Pompeii and other sites around Vesuvius, while the exhibition in Boston showcases more than 250 artifacts, including large frescoes, luxury personal items and famous body casts of Roman citizens captured in their final acts for eternity.
|Stone painted with Graffiti (resin cast). The inscription is in Oscan, an extinct Italian language.|
It turns out that life in Pompeii was not so different from our own, for the citizens spent their time shopping, eating meals and enjoying athletic events. Ancient graffiti scratched on the walls with a pointed stone or a dagger shows the names of the favorite gladiators, scathing reviews for bad restaurants and that politicians have been using negative campaigning for 2,000 years. Cheating seems to have also transcended the ages - as revealed by a pair of loaded dice that was rigged to land on the winning numbers.
|A pair of loaded dice made from ivory.|
Admittedly, I'm relieved that there have been some changes since ancient times because the idea of using human urine to bleach the undyed wool that was used to make Roman togas is less than appealing. Pots were strategically placed on the streets in front of laundries and passersby were invited to contribute their urine thus providing a constant supply of natural ammonia. Come to think of it, we could use a few of those pots on the streets in Paris where many of the men still feel that it's their right to urinate in public!
|Pots used for transporting wine and dried fruit. The "tail" at the bottom served as a shock |
absorber so that the pot wouldn't break when it was placed on the ground.
In addition to the interesting and informative short films, explanatory plaques and a large area with interactive displays, I particularly enjoyed listening to the expert commentary on the audio guide. Sally Granger, the author of Cooking Apicius: Roman Recipes for Today, explained that while the staples of the Roman diet closely resemble the Mediterranean diet of today, the use of cumin, coriander, honey, vinegar and a sauce made from fermented fish would have given the food a remarkably different flavor.
After visiting the Louvre for 10 Euros ($13) last week, I was surprised to pay $27 for admission to the Pompeii exhibition and the Exhibit Halls and an additional $4 for the audio tour. That's a lot of money if you're a family of four!
A Day in Pompeii (October 2, 2011 - February 12, 2012)
Museum of Science
1 Science Park
Boston, MA 02114
Pompeii: A Way of Life (September 21, 2011 - February 12, 2012)
61, rue de Grenelle
Métro : Rue du Bac
|Silenus, companion of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, and a maenad.|
|Bronze gladiator's helmet that was worn at Pompeii's amphitheater|