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The Lost World of Pompeii

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The Lost World of Pompeii
By Colin Amery and Brian Curran Jr. In Association with the World Monuments Fund. (The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles: 2002. Pgs. 192. 150 Illustrations, Map, and architectural Plans.) ISBN: 0-89236-687-7.

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - February 26, 2003

The Lost World of Pompeii, by Colin Amery and Brian Curran Jr., offers readers a fascinating tour through Pompeii, from its inception to the modern day. The text is written in a flowing narrative style that transports you directly to Pompeii, allowing you to walk the streets of this ancient city and to visualize the ruins around you. The narrative is further enhanced by the inclusion of 150 stunning photographs by Chris Caldicott, the Royal Geographic Society photographer-in-residence at Pompeii.

Pompeii's legacy is incalculable, especially for the historical window that it has opened to this long lost world. In this book, The Lost World of Pompeii, the authors take the reader on a fascinating tour of the city. Not only do they explore the history of the city, but also its artistic and cultural heritage. In the historical realm, they follow Pompeii from its origins up to its burial after the A.D. 70 eruption. They then take up the narrative with an in-depth look at the city's rediscovery and the history of the excavations conducted at Pompeii. The history of tourism to the Pompeian ruins is covered in intriguing detail. The authors also provide insights into the day to day life of the Pompeians, and how their houses where constructed and decorated, and the city's artwork, both public and private.

The city of Pompeii was buried under volcanic debris during an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. The city laid hidden from view until 1748 when the first full scale excavations of the city began. Today, a major portion of the city has been uncovered, with unforseen disastrous results. The debris that covered the city helped to preserved the cities ruins, and when uncovered, many of the city's murals and frescoes are in a pristine state. However exposure to the elements and unchecked tourism have had a detrimental effect upon the art and structures of Pompeii.

Currently, Pompeii is visited by well over 2 million people a year. Just the foot traffic alone from this horde has damaged walkways, and the vast numbers of people entering the buildings have negatively affected the interior atmospheric conditions of the structures. Worse, many of the visitors have accelerated the damage being done to the city by touching the fragile remnants of this beguiling city. The problems facing Pompeii, from both a conservation and restoration standpoint, are throughly discussed in this book.

Saving what remains of Pompeii is a major undertaking, an undertaking that takes on special importance in light of the information contained within the city that has yet to be studied.

As a whole, this book presents a compelling and informative history of Pompeii, while also highlighting the urgent need to preserve and study the ruins that have been uncovered. This is a well-written and well-researched book that is gorgeously illustrated. It is also a book that is very accessible to the general reader, and it includes a short 'further reading' list, plus a glossary of terms and a brief chronology of Pompeii's history. The Lost World of Pompeii will also be of interest to scholars and students.

Related Reviews:

Antiquity Recovered: The Legacy of Pompeii and Herculaneum, edited by Victoria C. Gardner Coates and Jon L. Seydl.
Thirteen essays that chronicle how our understanding of Pompeii and Herculaneum have changed over time, and the place these sites hold in popular culture.

Houses and Monuments of Pompeii, By Roberto Cassanelli, Pier Luigi Ciapparelli, Enrico Colle, and Massimiliano David.
A reproduction of Le case i monumenti di Pompeii by Fausto and Felice Niccolini, with over 270 color illustrations and commentary.

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