submit to reddit GoNOMAD Travel
Tags: Destinations Europe Italy
The cast of a young boy who perished at Pompeii in 79 A.D. Photos by Laura Stone.

The Stone People of Pompeii

[Adapted from her book Crossing the Mediterranean]

On our last day in Rome, my husband Chad and I headed to the port in Civitavecchia. We were sailing from Italy to Italy. Okay, more specifically, we would be going from Rome to Sorrento. I wasn’t that excited with the initial debarkation. That is until... I learned about the stone people of Pompeii.

Ancient Pompeii... A Happenin’ Place Blows Her Top

Apparently, Pompeii was the Las Vegas of the ancient world. It was a popular Roman vacation spot — the stomping grounds of the rich and famous. Ever since the sixth century B.C., the who’s who of Italy felt that they had to build a house on the Strip. Er, I mean on Main Street, Pompeii.

As a result, the city is filled with mosaics, frescos, pottery, functioning kitchens, and all the other fine things of the day. About 20,000 inhabitants enjoyed a food market, a bar, many restaurants, several theaters, a gymnasium, aqueducts, baths, and even a hotel.

Then, in 79 A.D. the sky came crashing down on them. Mount Vesuvius blew her top and buried everything under sixty feet of ash and pumice. The city was abandoned and eventually forgotten. Not until the mid 1700s was the town rediscovered through excavations.

Tripadvisor hotel reviews

Fortunately, buildings and personal belongings remained remarkably preserved, without deterioration from air and moisture, over those nearly 2,000 years. Yes, this was all fascinating, but it wasn’t the most interesting part.

Unearthing the Lost City: The Big Discovery

It was during these excavations that an archeologist by the name of Giuseppe Fiorelli started discovering empty areas within the digging sites and realized what these pockets were. He had the brilliant idea of injecting plaster into the negative spaces to recreate the forms.

In the forum in Pompeii
In the forum in Pompeii

As a result, he was able to perfectly reproduce the poses of Pompeiian victims at the moment of their deaths. Effectively, he was filling the void left from their decomposed bodies. In many cases, their terror and anguish were evident, still etched across their faces. Wow!

This was the creepiest, yet most intriguing description I had ever heard. From that movement, I had to see the stone people of Pompeii. Unbelievably, no one told me that you would have to hire a guide to do this!

Traveling There was Only Half the Battle

Chad and I took a train to Pompeii. Things seemed to be going great. In fact, we had arrived so early that the place hadn’t yet opened. So, we decided to take advantage of a nuclear lemon stand, where I downed the most flavorful icy of my life; it had been made from lemons the size of my head. Ahhh, I digress.

Roman mosaics and wall paintings
Roman mosaics and wall paintings

The point is that, once inside, I could not find the stone people. We walked down one cobblestone road after another. I spied the chariot tracks worn into the surfaces of the streets. I recognized the remains of houses and businesses. There were large sections of colorful and detailed frescos that decorated the walls, depicting daily Roman life.

Ornate mosaics of designs, animals, and people sprawled across floors. There were massive stacks of pottery in every size and shape. Beautiful basins embellished kitchen counters. It seemed like it would have been a snazzy place to live. But, where were the remains of these former residents?

I trekked up the hills and down the slopes, peeping into every nook. No stone people. After hours of searching, I was ready to give up. There were no signs. I had no map. No one knew where they were. Some visitors, who spoke English, hadn’t even heard of them. My feet were sore and blistered. My legs ached. I was about to leave the site when I heard an encouraging phrase.

The cast of a woman
The cast of a woman

A Glimmer of Hope for Seeing the Stone People

“Through here are the casts of the human forms,” a tour guide was informing his group.

My attention perked like the ears of a watchdog. As nonchalantly as possible, I accompanied his followers through a side entrance, which struck me as purposefully hidden.

I meandered slowly through the shuffling crowd, until I caught sight of the stone people. The view was eerily alluring — a terrible moment frozen in history.

A Scene I Will Never Forget

The pale statues resembled artistic sculptures. A small boy bent over his knees and clutched his nose with both hands.

The cast of a dog
The plaster cast of a dog

This posture must have been in an effort to breathe, while being trapped alive in the raining debris. His mouth was open, as if he had been screaming or crying.

There was also a pregnant woman, who lay belly down, covering her face. Her form, lonely and frightened, was a testament to human loss.

A dog’s contorted body appeared knot-like, with its legs lunged into the air and its head hugging its backside, as though it had been strangled to death. The scene was severely grim.

The destruction of Pompeii sprung to life before my eyes. I could almost hear the people screaming, as I imagined the immobilizing fear that had gripped them during the volcanic rumbling and raining of ash. It became real to me.

How could something so painful have sparked my curiosity? At some point, the stone figures had ceased to represent actual people and become merely historical artifacts. Seeing them for myself allowed my imagination to breathe life into these human forms.

I had finally found the stone people... and now I would never forget them. Their anguish would be forever etched into my mind.

 

Laura Stone

 

As a lifelong traveler, Laura Stone has trekked across five of the seven continents, with plans of visiting all seven — always nurturing her love of diversity. She has devoted her life to education, art, and cultural exploration. Graduating summa cum laude with a BA from Morehead State University in art and education, she went on to earn a MA in art education at the University of Cincinnati. She has written three travel books previously: I Give Seven Chicken, Americans in Brazil, and Crossing the Mediterranean.

 

 

Other GoNOMAD stories you might enjoy:

Forgotten Graves and Minoan Zombies by Stephanie Green

Shedding Light on Dark Tourism by Courtney Cox

Who WAS King Tut, Anyway? by Mary O'Brien

 

Read more GoNOMAD stories about Italy

Watch travel videos about Italy

 

Italy

, and capital of the Piedmonte region, the fourth-largest city in Italy. It's a city filled
Watch Travel Videos on GoNOMAD Italy Tips And Tricks: Rome Watch more Rome videos
Edwards photos. A Bologna, Italy: Seven of the City's Secrets By Catherine Edwards Bologna
Kids on the beach in Portovenere, Italy. Photo by Alexandra Regan. Click on photo to return
Kids enjoy playing on the beach in Portovenere, Italy, on the Ligurian coast. photos by Alexandra
An ancient shield at a feast parade in Tarquinia, Italy. photos by R. Daniel Foster
where Fiera Della Ceramica was underway. A Artisans from every province of Italy had arrived
A House Museums in Italy: Visting where Artists, Writers and Royalty once lived
Il Dolce Tartufo A A Gelato Revelation in Southern Italy By Layne Mosler I
Italy: A Week on a Tuscan Farm By John Blanchette Flying into Florence, my
Church of St. Pietro, Portovenere. Photo by Alexandra Reagan. Italy. click to return
Kids enjoy playing on the beach in Portovenere, Italy, on the Ligurian coast. Photos by Alexandra
Are We There Yet? At 46, I Take My Parents to Italy By Max Hartshorne, GoNOMAD Editor
Italy. Its historic center has been beautifully preserved and although a modern city in many senses
literature: not overlooking the Liffey in Dublin, but by the Adriatic, in Trieste, Italy. Polyglot

New Travel Articles
Follow GoNOMAD.com Travel's board Destination Guides on Pinterest.
 
 
 


Subscribe to GoNOMAD's monthly enewsletter for all of our new travel articlesGet our free monthly travel newsletter
and help support sustainable and responsible tourism.
No spam, no selling
your email, we promise!

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...