You know how every generation in history thinks they are the pinnacle of civility and wisdom?

Well, let’s see what is possible when we have the humility to assume we are not nearly as smart as we will be someday!

On this edition of Saturday’s Around the World on EWC, we’re visiting the site of one of the most famous natural disasters in history – the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD – and seeing what we can learn from the time-capsule that eruption created by burying the city of Herculaneum!

There’s just so much to marvel at with this story; everything from geology, to travel tips, from cutting-edge technology to ancient knowledge, art and culture.

Image: Plaster casts of 2000 year old victims from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius

Source: Tyler Bell // Flickr

Do you recognize the context of the haunting image above?

These are the plaster casts of some of the residents of the famous city of Pompeii, who were preserved by the volcanic debris, exactly where they fell, 2000 years ago when Mt. Vesuvius erupted. (Explained at the end of this article.) It also buried the thriving city of Herculaneum under 60 feet (18 meters) of mud and ash, within 18 hours, essentially preserving everything and everyone, exactly in place, as if in a time capsule.

If there could be a silver lining to this tragedy, it is the perfection with which the eruption preserve the details of everyday life and culture in this important period of history.

We have a great video to finish up this article, made by some entertaining travelers who will give you the tour of Herculaneum today. I’ve walked Herculaneum’s cobbled streets myself and could not have done a better job!

Image: Cobbled stone streets of Pompeii with Mt. Vesuvius in the distance

Source: Wikimedia

But first, let’s start with the amazing innovation we want to celebrate today!

If you visit EWC regularly, you know we try to point our visitors to the “good news” that is being missed by most these days. As with many of the best-emerging technologies we feature, the discovery at hand involves a  collaboration between experts whose work might not appear to connect in any way. But a “Condensed Matter” Physicist and a “Papyrologist”, an expert in reading the papyrus scrolls of antiquity,  have found a way to do the impossible by combining their strengths.

They have discovered a way to read the ancient knowledge in the 2000-year-old books (scrolls) that had been turned to charcoal!

And here’s where realizing we’re not as smart as we think we are comes in: these scrolls were uncovered 250 years ago and carefully preserved for another time when a new generation of scientists might be able to work wonders with something seemingly useless.

Now here’s a great story…

Ah… wonderful! Right down to the tiny dabble in philosophy there at the very end.

Would say, would fall.

Perhaps that’s a serendipitous reference to the epic hubris that we are prone to. Perhaps the most verbose and self-assured among us are positioning themselves for the greatest falls.

Seems like a history might prove that thesis.

10 minutes

Exploring Life in a Bronze Age Settlement: England’s Pompeii

Ever wondered what life was like in a Bronze Age Settlement? Join us as we explore England's Pompeii, a remarkable site that preserves life as it was millennia ago...

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Now let’s walk some ancient streets like Herculaneum!

While doing the research for this article, I was surprised there were no high quality, short documentary-style videos about Herculaneum to be found. So I changed my search to travel vlogs just to be sure we rounded out today’s topic with a little virtual day-trip to this part of the world.

In the search, I was lucky enough to discover the videos of a couple of globetrotters, Samuel and Audrey. They’ve made many videos for travelers who want to skip the bus tour and make their way around the world in a self-guided way on a sensible travel budget. Some of our EWC fans know that’s the way Dr. Chuck and I have traveled the world for decades, so I can totally recommend the travel advice I’ve seen from the pair. Great work!

So head out with them to get a feel for what it’s like to walk ancient cobbled streets, see the cartwheel tracks remaining in the rocks, and look across an ancient city to Vesuvius, still lurking beautifully in the distance.

Fun, huh? Nice job of bringing us along for a tiny bit of time travel!

But what about those haunting human forms?

Looking back, I see that neither of the videos really explained those plaster casts of fallen citizens we opened this article with!

Here’s one last video that answers a lot of questions we still had about how this whole “time capsule” situation unfolded. The video is not great quality, but it’s made by UNESCO, so it comes from a solid source – The United Nations – that is now protecting this precious place for all humanity.

Via: UNESCO  3

The circle is complete! I always wondered how those haunting human casts were created, and in the process, we’re expanded by this tale in many directions. Perhaps most of all, by a greater appreciation for the comfort we can find in relying on the scope of time to settle vexing questions and highlight real progress.

If you’d like to continue a train of thought in that direction, we’ve done some amazing articles about thought leaders who are taking us on other remarkable journeys through ancient knowledge. Don’t miss these:

23 minutes

What Makes Stonehenge So Remarkable?

By looking closely at the landscape around Stonehenge we can catch a glimpse at the people who built and used it. Yes, there is much more to it than meets the eye!

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7 minutes

Do You Know Petra?

Her crumbling features take nothing away from her beauty and remarkable origins. While the efforts to create her defy explanation, the mystery adds to the wonder of Petra.

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24 minutes

Grab Your Hat! You’re About to Become a Space Archaeologist.

Ever wished that you could be the one to discover an amazing ancient site? Well, what if we told you that you can be, by connecting to a satellite, yourself!?

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Let’s close on something light. Keep the cartoon below in mind when you are doing your best to grow and expand your perspective, and yet, many around you seem to be running in place or going backward!

Make it a great day. Keep expanding your perspective despite the apparent craziness in the world. We’re here with over 900 articles radiating out in Ever Widening Circles to prove this is still an amazing world!

Stay open, curious and hopeful!

~ Dr. Lynda

Wondering what else happened before you came along?

We have just the category for you to explore…

History on EWC

See what you can uncover there! But before you dive too deep, make sure you’re subscribed so you won’t miss our next article!

Notes:

  1. “Would Say Would Fall.” Vimeo. MEL Films, 19 June 2016. Web. 20 Apr. 2018. <https://vimeo.com/171348361>.
  2. “Would Say Would Fall.” Vimeo. MEL Films, 19 June 2016. Web. 20 Apr. 2018. <https://vimeo.com/171348361>.
  3. “Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata (UNESCO/NHK).” YouTube. UNESCO, 03 June 2010. Web. 20 Apr. 2018. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-PybEAFAfss&feature=youtu.be>.

Dr. Lynda is a dentist, artist, global traveler, and philanthropist who looks for potential and shares it with the world.