Casts of the bodies of people buried under a crust of molten ash, a 2,000-year-old loaf of bread with the baker’s stamp still visible, gold jewellery, sculptures, mosaics, and an entire garden room showing frescoes of ideal plants. Archaeologists who began excavations in 1748 discovered all this and more at sites where the Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum flourished before one of its most catastrophic eruptions buried the towns, sealing them in a time capsule.
“Lots of cities have monuments; Rome, Alexandria, Ephesus and Leptis Magna, all have amazing monuments, but Pompeii and Herculaneum have streets full of houses and shops, ordinary buildings with their contents and decorations still inside.
That’s why they are so important; they provide a unique picture of everyday life,” says Paul Roberts, curator, Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities, British Museum.
Roberts recently curated an exhibition of epic proportions at the British Museum in London — with 95 per cent of the objects brought in from Naples, Pompeii and Herculaneum — which offered a glimpse into the daily lives of the people living in two of the largest cities that perished under the molten lava.
While it is impossible for the exhibits to travel, history buffs in the city can catch the screening of a 90-minute film produced by the museum. “Highlights of the film are the many objects that speak of the daily lives of these Roman people.
One of the main benefits of the film was that we could really concentrate on a selection of objects in depth. Pompeii Live is not a tour of every object in the exhibition. We have zeroed in on pieces we thought would be of most interest to the public,” explains Roberts.
“The film should interest not only those who know about Pompeii, but also the generally curious,” believes Khushroo N Suntook, Chairman, NCPA, where the film will be screened, along with an exhibition on the Indus Valley Civilisation in partnership with the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) Museum.
The lives of the Roman people, adds Roberts, are extraordinarily interesting because of how ordinary they were. “Their social structure was very different, for example they had slavery, but their need for beautiful things, their everyday activities in their houses, the way they cared about their houses and wanted to have nice things, in these ways and so many others they were like us,” says the curator, who will be present at the screening this evening, in conversation with archaeologist Shereen Ratnagar.
When: Today (6.30 pm) and October 7 (11 am)
Where: Godrej Dance Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point