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Pompeii and Herculaneum showcased at the British Museum

'Life and Death' takes visitors back to ancient Roman cities

Pompeii and Herculaneum showcased at the British Museum

(By Kate Carlisle) London, March 28 - Pompeii, sometimes called the forgotten city, was lost for nearly 1,700 years before its rediscovery in 1748. When Mount Vesuvius erupted covering the bustling Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum near Naples in AD 79, those who remained and the cities themselves were abandoned. Eventually their names and locations were forgotten. Although it is inconceivable that Pompeii will ever be left behind again, an unprecedented exhibition beginning on Thursday at the British Museum in London is set to give visitors unforgettable insight to the ancient cities' glories. Sponsored by Goldman Sachs, some 450 artifacts that have never left Italy are on loan from the Superintendency of Naples and will be on display until the end of September 2013. The exhibition entitled 'Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum' will display everyday objects, complete frescoes, statues, mosaics and casts of Vesuvius' victims - all frozen in time. Exhibition organizers have created a journey through time, with images of tranquil daily life in the ancient Roman cities blended with the present-day bustle of the southern Italian city of Naples. The show segues into displays of objects, some quirky, others dazzling, reminding the visitor the lives of Roman citizens were not so different from ours. Statues, garden furniture, food moulds, even a mosaic warning sign reading "Cave canem" - beware of the dog - are indicators of just how much the average person loved their 'stuff'. And as a reminder that ancient Romans were truly made of flesh and blood, curators dipped into the abundant stock of erotica preserved from the cities. Sexual frolics are depicted in paintings, like the unforgettable portrayal of a man and woman testing a new position or signs explicitly indicating the whereabouts of brothels. It is life as usual both in the past and present. Then visitors are thrust into Pompeii in its worst moment as Vesuvius explodes, sending out noxious gasses and showers of ash. Casts of the volcano's victims cower in agony - a family lies together in positions of pain and terror, braced against the hellish heat. A bejewelled woman covering her head with an arm heavy with bracelets who thought she could take her riches with her. Lost, but not forgotten in today's world that looks for its similarities in the past.

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