Monday, 15 April 2013

Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum at the British Museum


The title of this exhibition has been carefully selected as the curators obviously wanted to show and illustrate the lives of the average Pompeiian, not just the manner of their deaths.  I'm not quite sure what I expected but I did expect more.  I know that archaeologists have unearthed huge amounts of everyday detritus from both sites, which illuminate and illustrate Roman life, enabling us  to understand and appreciate how they (the Pompeian/Romans) lived a life not unlike ours with all mod (2000 year old) cons and luxuries to make life comfortable.  But there really wasn't that much on display.

Basing the exhibition on an existing house, each 'room' of the exhibition was then furnished with products and artifacts appropriate to that area.   I expected more minutiae - lots of it, if fact I expect to be overwhelmed by the smallness of an ancient life, that is so different and yet so similar to our own. Each item on display was interesting and often exquisite in detail and pathos, but there wasn't that much. Which meant that at the really interesting displays there were a lot of people trying to read, look and appreciate the items,  creating a bottle neck and that meant that my son and I looked from a distance and moved on (thank goodness for audio descriptions, in little MP3 players).

Having said that, this exhibition is probably the nearest we will get to Pompeii or Herculaneum for a few years so, we enjoyed and lapped up all the curios, charred food, furniture and mementos of the suddenly stilled lives. Macabre it maybe but also fascinating - and the overwhelming sense that they aren't so very different from us!