60s slides of Hercu­laneum

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When clear­ing out my grand­par­ents’ house a couple of years ago I found seven pack­ets of these 60s tour­ist slides of vari­ous places around the Medi­ter­ranean. I’ve been scan­ning and restor­ing them. First up, these from Hercu­laneum.

Hercu­laneum is a smal­ler coastal town near Pompeii that was also destroyed by the volcano. It’s not as well known, but there are some magni­fi­cent villas there in a simil­ar but smal­ler archae­olo­gic­al park to the one you can visit at Pompeii. Some of the site is also covered over by the modern town of Ercolano, unlike Pompeii. (A strange by-product of study­ing Clas­sics is that you end up know­ing a lot about small towns in Campan­ia).

Since the era of good-qual­ity smart­phone camer­as, people don’t real­ise just how much calcu­la­tion and tech­nic­al help is going on in the back­ground to give them better images. In the 60s you had to know what you were doing with expos­ures, lenses and film to get good photos, so there was a big market in these pack­ets of slides for tour­ists. Why take your own incom­pet­ent photos when you could buy a pack­et of profes­sion­al ones.

They hadn’t quite nailed the formula for consumer colour film in that era though, so over the years the blues and greens fade out, leav­ing everything pink and orange. Some­times the slides look really surreal and cool in those colours, but mostly they just look muddy, so I’ve colour correc­ted them in Photoshop. I considered just select­ing a few, but there’s only 36 images in the pack, so I’ll post them all with the info from the slides about what they are. Many of the houses have been given names by archae­olo­gists based on the decor­a­tion inside.

Raw scan result- one of the images I like in pink however

After the colours are restored to the origin­al- the cent­ral hall (atri­um) of a rich­er house. The walls would origin­ally have had plaster and murals

The palaes­tra– the outside area of the public gym for prac­ti­cing sports like boxing and wrest­ling. This was one of the slides in the worst condi­tion.

Remnants of murals in a shrine dedic­ated to Emper­or Augus­tus. At the time of the explo­sion, Titus had just become Emper­or after his fath­er Vespasi­an died of diarrhea. Titus himself dies two years later from illness to be replaced with his deeply unpop­u­lar broth­er Domitian. So unpop­u­lar he was the last member of his dynasty.

Fancy outside peri­style.

Statues from the “House of the Deer”

Faded wall murals from the dining room of the House of the Deer. These people had money. Poor Romans lived in flats and ate at takeaways and pubs. Three or more couches with cush­ions would have been arranged around cent­ral low tables (hence triclini­um for dining room in Latin). For enter­tain­ing, food would be served as finger style canapes, eaten relax­ing on the sofas. Eating sitting up at a table was a sign you were in a rush and nobody import­ant.

Court­yard garden

Dining room mosa­ics at the “House of Neptune”. Romans prior­it­ised the decor­at­ing budget in the dining room because that’s where guests spend most of their time.

Street view. Roman houses were designed to look delib­er­ately boring outside, to discour­age robbers and to keep the heat out. Light came in via the cent­ral court­yard. You can still see plenty of houses in the same design in Morocco.

More expens­ive statu­ary at the House of the Deer. I’ve cleaned up all the other green dye stains from the slides, but I left this one because it made me laugh.

Court­yard in the House of the Frieze of Tele­ph­us

The dining room at the House of Neptune again.

Terrace at the House of the Deer

Entrance to the public gym

Tablin­um- a home office. Often decor­ated with sculp­tures or paint­ings of family members. This is where busi­ness visit­ors were taken for meet­ings.

Statue of Eros aka Cupid.

Anoth­er fancy peri­style garden. In some of the houses in Pompeii they’ve tested the soil and replanted the same plants as would have been grow­ing in 79 AD in the garden.

Women’s chan­ging rooms at the baths. You could pay someone to keep an eye on your stuff on those shelves. In Bath, there was a tradi­tion of writ­ing curses on pieces of lead and throw­ing them into the holy spring to come true. Archae­olo­gists have fished out a lot curs­ing people who stole their clothes from the chan­ging rooms.

Anoth­er grand court­yard. The roof was open in the centre and the pool would fill with rain­wa­ter. Some houses had a foun­tain here. That alcove would have a shrine to the house­hold spir­its and ancest­ors.

Wall murals at the baths. Most free Romans went every day – it was cheap and often politi­cians would try to buy votes by spon­sor­ing free entry days. There was usually swim­ming, steam rooms, hot tubs, sauna and massages avail­able (along with er, other services).

Grand peri­style garden at the House of Argus – one of the biggest villas in the town. When the remains were origin­ally discovered in the 1820s the upstairs balcony was still in place, but it’s since fallen down.

Anoth­er street view, with a recon­struc­ted upper floor on one of the houses. Most of these houses would have had a door­man, prob­ably with a dog.

Pergola area in the garden of the House of the Deer

Hall of the house of the Frieze of Tele­ph­us – origin­ally this would have had a roof (with an open­ing to let the water and light in).

Satyr statue from the House of the Deer. Look at his leopard skin cloak and goat­skin bag of wine. He’s ready to party.

Anoth­er ruined hall- you can see the size of the house from outside. This was prob­ably the most damaged slide.

The caldari­um – the hot room at the baths.  The usual order was to relax in the warm room, then cover your­self in olive oil and have a good sweat in the hot room, and scrape the dirty oil off taking the muck from your skin before having a refresh­ing plunge in the cold pool or a swim in the swim­ming pool. (Repeat as you like)

Cent­ral court­yard of a house with more of the upper level surviv­ing. Roman bedrooms (cubiculum) were usually small and sparsely decor­ated. Decor­at­ing budget was saved for public rooms down­stairs.

Women’s hot room at the baths. These baths had separ­ate men and women’s facil­it­ies, but after the first century AD many were mixed.

Anoth­er garden.

Street of grand villas. Again it’s all on the inside.

Street foun­tain and remains of some shops and work­shops. There were public wells and foun­tains fed from the aqua­ducts for every­one to use, and rich­er people had home plumb­ing. Unfor­tu­nately a lot of the pipes were made of lead.

Patio view of the House of the Deer – this is one of my favour­ite slides.

Snake sculp­ture at the gym.

A ther­mo­pol­i­um – a Roman takeaway – this is where ordin­ary people would get meals. The holes are stor­age jars. Lots of mulled wine, lentil and chick­pea dishes, baked cheeses, and a dish simil­ar to pizza on the menu. With plenty of garum– fish sauce to drizzle over everything (it’s pretty much identic­al to modern Thai fish sauce). No tomato, no peppers, no citrus or pota­toes though, those were yet to come. Poor people didn’t eat much meat, it was expens­ive. A good source was sacri­fices at temples if they could get it. Conveni­ently the bit the gods liked from sacri­ficed anim­als was the gristle and bones, leav­ing the congreg­a­tion free to eat the rest.









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