Beach Buried for 2K Years Is Now Open to Public

Excavated beach at Herculaneum welcomes first visitors since AD79 Vesuvius eruption
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 20, 2024 8:53 AM CDT
Beach Buried for 2K Years Is Now Open to Public
A view of the ancient Roman city of Herculaneum in Campania, Italy, with Mount Vesuvius in the background.   (Wikimedia Commons/Diego Delso)

Visitors to Herculaneum, an ancient Roman town devastated by the AD79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius, can now walk along its beach just as its doomed inhabitants once did. Careful conservation work has restored the beach to its original level of sand, buried some two millennia ago. It now appears "almost as it was before the eruption," the Guardian reports. The skeletons of more than 300 people were previously found in the remains of boat sheds along the beach, where they would've waited to be rescued by sea. One man, whose remains were discovered in 2021, apparently vaporized just steps from the shoreline, which is now several hundred yards from where it would've been 2,000 years ago.

"If we look towards where the sea once was, we become modern explorers of the immense blanket of volcanic flow that covered the city in a few hours, almost sharing the sense of total annihilation," said Francesco Sirano, director of the archaeological park in southern Italy. Herculaneum, rediscovered in the early 18th century, suffered an even worse fate than that of the better-known Pompeii, about 10 miles away. Whereas Pompeii was buried in roughly 10 feet of ash, Herculaneum was caught up in a pyroclastic surge, a fast-moving current of hot gas and other matter, with temperatures between 750 and 932 degrees Fahrenheit, before being buried in almost 65 feet of volcanic mud, which preserved organic items like food, per the Guardian.

Herculaneum's victims were "found in a similar condition to those of Hiroshima," archaeologist Domenico Camardo told the outlet in 2021. "You really get a sense of the horror and tragedy." In addition to human remains, archaeologists unearthed "the passage of pyroclastic flows that hit the city in 79AD with materials of all kinds," Sirano said, per CNN. After years of conservation work, the beach opened to the public on Wednesday. Sirano called it "an extraordinary and unique place in the world." Italy's Minister of Culture Gennaro Sangiuliano, who attended the event, noted new discoveries are likely to be made amid a flurry of construction in the area, per CNN. (Another Herculaneum find tells the lost secrets of the philosopher Plato.)

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