Herculaneum was the first of the two cities to be excavated. Under Charles of Bourbon, later King Charles III of Spain, Colonel Rocque Joachin de Alcubierre was assigned to find artifacts remaining from the city in Resina. The first remains were found by a farmer in his field in 1738. Alcubierre dug tunnels in the hard soil of Herculaneum, searching for and removing any remains that Charles would like for his collection of artifacts. As a military engineer, Alcubierre had no idea where to look or how to go about it. Often he would search at random and take only what he believed the best, covering back up the rest. He cared little for the buildings and frescoes found, only the objects that could be displayed elsewhere (Sonneborn 9, 13, 17).
In 1748, Alcubierre heard of marble statues found within a collapsed field in La Civitá. Alcubierre was not the one to find anything of significance at La Civtá, however. After a nearly fruitless search he abandoned the site, only to have his assistant, Karl Jakob Weber, find the true break through in 1755. Still, neither realized it was Pompeii that had been discovered until 1763, when the words “Res Publica Pompeianorum” were found on a wall. The words were the official Roman title for Pompeii (Sonneborn 24, 25, 39).
Weber began open air excavations, allowing his men to work faster. Where before this was impossible, in the loose soil of Pompeii, it was far easier. The plan Weber used was to follow any streets in order to hopefully discover more buildings. While the method found little, it did reveal more area than others. He began to uncover whole blocks of homes and paved streets. To those searching for treasure to display, these were disappointments. However, from an anthropological stand point, even these were significant. Buildings uncovered were found to have advertisements painted on them for things ranging from political offices to rooms for rent (Sonneborn 39-42). Such findings allowed a view into the lives of the past.
Advertisements were not the only things found on the walls of homes in Pompeii. Photographs taken by Alfredo and Pio Foglia show murals decorating many a villa and place of business. Preserved by the ash of Mount Vesuvius, these murals were found in nearly perfect condition, most bearing little to no wear. The still vibrant colors reveal the amount of skill Pompeii artists had developed, as well as what was most important to those who lived in the city. Images of Roman gods, theaters, and everyday items were among the numerous findings (Albentiis 91, 110).
Statues were found abundantly in the city of Pompeii. Statues of gladiators and Caesars, gods and goddess abounded. One find of Weber's was that of a small statue of the goddess Diana. This statue was found with its original paint still intact (Sonneborn 51). Other finds were a faun in the House of the Faun and a bronze figure of Apollo used as a lamp stand in the House of Julius Polybius (Albentiis 46, 170).
To be Continued....