Holiday at Hotel Alpha, Sant'Agnello, near Sorrento.

Friday 24th June - Friday 8th July 2011        Visit to Herculaneum Archaeological Site

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The Roman town of Herculaneum, situated on a promontory between two rivers and on the coastal road, was buried beneath about twenty metres of volcanic mud which hardened into a tufa rock over the centuries. The town of Resina was established over the top of Herculaneum and the existence of buildings below came to light in about 1709 when a peasant was digging a well. He came down into the theatre and began to unearth marble tablets. He sold them to a local marble dealer and from then the existence of a town under the ground gradually began to be realised. Even now, most of the old town are still not excavated as it lies under the modern town.

The beach area is well below the first level of the town and tunnels lead up.  Vaulting is used to support the first level at the beach end.

        View over the town showing new town above and old town down below.         Site plan     Plan legend


Original beach area        Tunnel up from beach        Road into town looking towards beach ; tunnel can just be seen           Roads are paved with stone slabs


Houses are built with either stone or brick or a mixture. Most surfaces were plastered and painted.  Floors are usually simple mosaics, some are better, or some are covered in coloured marble tiles.

        There are many bars or fast food shops, sometimes called Taberna or Thermopololium. The counters are often marble covered and there may be shelves built into the walls.


Main street with public water fountain        Some house entrances were rather grand            The Gymnasium was very large and only a small part of it has been excavated.

              There are several bread producers around the town.  The flour was produced in a rotary quern, usually using donkey or mule power. At least one of the producers had 3 or more querns.   Ovens were fairly simple wood heated brick built affairs, much like modern Pizza ovens.   

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Houses often had a an altar to the household gods.  Original timber survives in a few houses, charred.        Painted walls can be very grand and detailed.


It is possible to enter the Forum Baths . There were separate facilities for men and women. Roofs were vaulted and ribbed. There were cold, tepid and hot rooms. A cold plunge bath could be entered, but apparently they tended to be dirty as there was no water cleaning and no through flow.  There were wall mounted clothes niches or shelves.  Floors were mosaic with some intricate designs.  There was usually an outdoor exercise space.


In the House of Neptune and Amphitritis there were some very fine mosaic decoration on a nymphaeum .  The amphora were in a shop at the front of the house and which communicated with the house.  Often,  houses had lockup shops on their outer walls.

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