Herculaneum Uncovered
A conversation with Andrew Wallace-Hadrill

In 79 CE Mount Vesuvius erupted, launching torrents of gas, rock and ash on the unsuspecting cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, swiftly obliterating them both.

But the ironies of history have changed this unprecedented natural disaster into a precious archaeological treasure, as the sites have...


About Andrew Wallace-Hadrill :

Andrew Wallace-Hadrill is head of the Herculaneum Conservation Project and a Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge. He was Director of the British School at Rome for 14 years.

His book Herculaneum: Past and Future is a wonderfully detailed and informative guide aimed at a gener...


Some Additional Resources:
Herculaneum: Past and Future

By Andrew Wallace-Hadrill

The primary reference for this discussion. Illustrated with 300 recent color photographs, it is a compelling overview for the general public of what we know and understand about Herculaneum, of what is still unknown and mysterious, and of the potential for future discoveries in both archaeological and political contexts

Houses and Society in Pompeii and Herculaneum

By Andrew Wallace-Hadrill

In this illustrated book, Andrew Wallace-Hadrill explores the rich potential of the houses of Pompeii and Herculaneum to offer new insights into Roman social life. Exposing misconceptions derived from contemporary culture, he shows the close interconnection of spheres we take as discrete: public and private, family and outsiders, work and leisure.

Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum

By Paul Roberts

Drawing on full-color photographs of more than 200 excavated objects from a soldier's sword to a shopkeeper's blue glass storage bottle, Paul Roberts lifts the inhabitants of Pompeii and Herculaneum out of the ashes and brings them back into the light. Roberts is Senior Curator at the British Museum and is the driving force behind the current exhibit at the British Museum, Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum, which runs until September 29, 2013.

Historical Perspective (Commentary Excerpt)

Looked at through the eyes of an archaeologist, human catastrophes can take on a rather different hue.

When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE, it swiftly engulfed the nearby cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in an overwhelming torrent of rock and ash. What was an unimaginable nightmare for the two cities’ inhabitants, however, later became a boon to historical scholarship as the disaster meticulously preserved two separate instances of first century Roman towns for future generations.

Small comfort for the ancient residents of the Bay of Naples, one would imagine. Not many of us would be willing to cut our lives short to satisfy the curiosity of archaeologists two thousand years in the future. But then, it’s generally acknowledged that living right next to a volcano does tend to shorten one’s odds in the great casino of life.

What’s rather less appreciated, however, is that uncovering the past can be just as random and unpredictable a process as burying it.

University of Cambridge archaeologist Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, head of the Herculaneum Conservation Project and long-time Director of the British School at Rome, is quick to point out society’s sometimes quixotic relationship to the past.

His recent book, Herculaneum: Past and Future, has an entire chapter on “The Politics of Archaeology” where Wallace-Hadrill describes how the rediscovery of Herculaneum and Pompeii in the first half of the 18th century was a perfect propaganda fit for Charles Bourbon of Spain who was keen to establish his new Kingdom of The Two Sicilies as a focal point of global culture and an integral spot on The Grand Tour. Subsequent periods of languishing disinterest were punctuated by periodic resonances of archaeological and political agendas, such as those during the post-Risorgimento national government and again during Mussolini’s Fascist regime.

The deliberate linking of perceptions of national heritage with active politic agendas is often unfortunate, but hardly surprising.

But what one certainly doesn’t expect is evidence that, in many cases throughout history, the past was deliberately forgotten...

For the full Commentary, purchase this issue from our site, or buy the eBook from Amazon.com or iBookstore, or download our app off Apple Newsstand. Each issue comes with the commentary, the full conversation, a biography of our guest, as well as references for further exploration.