Sites & cities that bear the name of Herculaneum


Today in : Italy
First trace of activity : ca. 12th century B.C.E
Last trace of activity : 79 C.E
Recorded names : Heraklion, Herculanum, Resina, Ercolano

Description : Herculaneum /hɜːrkjʊˈleɪniəm/ (Italian: Ercolano) was an ancient town, located in the modern-day comune of Ercolano, Campania, Italy. The city was destroyed and buried under volcanic ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Like the nearby city of Pompeii, Herculaneum is famous as one of the few ancient cities to be preserved more or less intact, with no later accretions or modifications. The thick layer of ash that blanketed the town also protected it against looting and the elements. Unlike Pompeii, the mainly pyroclastic material that covered Herculaneum carbonized and preserved more wood in objects such as roofs, beds, and doors, as well as other organic-based materials such as food and papyrus. The traditional story is that the city was rediscovered by chance in 1709, during the digging of a well. Remnants of the city, however, were already found during earlier earthworks. In the first years after its rediscovery, tunnels were dug at the site by treasure hunters, and many artifacts were removed without authorization. Regular excavations began in 1738, and have continued ever since, albeit intermittently. Today, only part of the ancient site has been excavated, and attention and funds have shifted to the preservation of the already excavated parts of the city, rather than focusing on uncovering more areas. Although it was smaller than Pompeii, Herculaneum was a wealthier town. It was a popular seaside retreat for the Roman elite, which is reflected in the extraordinary density of grand and luxurious houses with, for example, far more lavish use of coloured marble cladding. Famous buildings of the ancient city include the Villa of the Papyri and the so-called "boat houses", in which the skeletal remains of at least 300 people were found.

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