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Bringing Pompeii to Sweden

Published torsdag 26 februari 2015 kl 15.28
"You have a very special status of preservation in Pompeii"
(8:00 min)
Swedish Pompeii Project exhibit at Millesgården: atrium. Photo: Ryan Tebo/Sveriges Radio.
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Swedish Pompeii Project exhibit at Millesgården: atrium. Photo: Ryan Tebo/Sveriges Radio.
Maria Wiberg curator of Pompeii exhibit at Millesgården. Behind her map of Pompeii. Photo: Ryan Tebo/Sveriges Radio.
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Maria Wiberg curator of Pompeii exhibit at Millesgården. Behind her map of Pompeii. Photo: Ryan Tebo/Sveriges Radio.
Pompeii exhibit at Millesgården: erotic painting from Pompeii. Photo: Ryan Tebo/Sveriges Radio.
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Pompeii exhibit at Millesgården: erotic painting from Pompeii. Photo: Ryan Tebo/Sveriges Radio.
Pompeii exhibit at Millesgården: wall showing before Vesuvius and how it is now. Photo: Ryan Tebo/Sveriges Radio.
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Pompeii exhibit at Millesgården: wall showing before Vesuvius and how it is now. Photo: Ryan Tebo/Sveriges Radio.

The Millesgården museum in Lidingö, just outside Stockholm, is currently housing an exhibit in collaboration with the Swedish Pompeii Project, recreating a house from the city block in Pompeii where the project has been conducting research and documentation.

The Italian cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were buried by ash and molten lava respectively from the volcano Vesuvius in the year 79AD. And since their re-discovery in the eighteenth century the world has remained fascinated with the secrets that had been so well preserved. These secrets are still whispering to us today from the two towns frozen in time.

"I think it really changed the idea of history. The eighteenth century was really when we came to the understanding that a period of history had really finished," said Anne-Marie Leander Touati, director of the Swedish Pompeii Project and professor at Lund University.

The city block Insula V 1 is where the Swedish Pompeii Project started recording and analysing the block in the year 2000, as an initiative by the Swedish Institute in Rome.

"It all started with the earthquake in 1980, which really showed the fragility of the site. Then the archaeological authorities of Pompeii invited the international researchers to help Pompeii make the documentations that hadn't been done," Leander Touati said.

The exhibit at the Millesgården museum is based on work from the Swedish group in Pompeii, recreating one of the houses from that city block, owned by wealthy Pompeiian Caecilius Iucundus.

Outside the entrance to the house, curator Maria Wiberg reads from a text that was originally found in the home in Pompeii.

"May those who love prosper,

May those who cannot love perish.

Let those perish twice over whoever forbids love."

The entrance to the house is dominated by a large pool in the atrium, which Wiberg says is common in houses of more wealthy citizens of Pompeii. She also says that the pool was under open sky and was used to collect rainwater.

Beyond the atrium pool, is the most important room in the house, the tablinum, where Caecilius Iucundus met his important business guests. The exhibit presents a wall from that room, where half of the wall is a photo of what the wall looks like today and the other half recreates what it might have looked like before Vesuvius erupted.

Wiberg says that this was an important business room. The wall is now yellow, but many think the original color was red. One theory is that the heat from the eruption possibly transformed the red color to yellow.

There are several erotic paintings in the house. One painting of a normal couple having sex is very unusual because sexual scenes were almost always depicted as between mythological beings, not ordinary citizens. The paintings were cut out of the wall in the 1870's when they were first found and thanks to that are still well preserved today.

Lovisa is visiting the museum with her grandparents.

"I've been to Pompeii and this exhibit sort of reincarnates the houses that you would see there. This builds a better image of what they would have looked like."

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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