As the saying goes: ‘see Naples and die’. But before you visit and kick the bucket, recent discoveries at the nearby ancient Roman city of Pompeii mean there’s another excuse to head to the capital of Italy’s Campania region. An intensive dig at the Regio V site in Pompeii kicked off in 2013, but only now are the efforts of historians and archaeologists beginning to bear fruit. Last year, new horse and human skeletons were unearthed at the world-famous ruins, as well as houses, shrines, mosaics and a certain saucy mural depicting the Greek tale of Leda and the Swan.
Elsewhere, the Schola Armaturarum (that’s the gladiator school, to you and me) has thankfully been restored to its former glory after it collapsed in 2010, which fuelled questions about Pompeii’s management at the time.
But perhaps the most interesting find in these renewed excavations was an ancient piece of charcoal ‘graffiti’, its legibility a result of it being freshly scrawled on a wall shortly before the Vesuvian ash and pumice descended on the city. It’s been turning ancient historians’ heads as the Roman-age Banksy dated his work in October, throwing the previously held belief that the AD 79 eruption took place in August into doubt.
All the archaeological action hasn’t just been taking place at Pompeii, though. At nearby Herculaneum, the Antiquarium — a rather gawdy white elephant since 1974 — has finally opened to the public. It’s hosting SplendOri: Luxury in the Ornaments of Herculaneum, an exhibition showcasing some of the most lustrous finds in and around the ill-fated Roman city, including jewels, coins, ornaments and gems. Until 30 September 2019.
Published in the March 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)