A Walk Through Ashes – The Pompeii Exhibit At The Singapore National Museum


The very word brings to mind the mega-volcano Vesuvius erupting and burying four ancient Roman towns in up to four meters of ash, of bodies fossilised in nearly every single imaginable position of death, of a snapshot of life and death on 24 August 79 CE.

From now till 23 January 2011, the National Museum of Singapore will be featuring an extensive exhibit on Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius entitled “Pompeii – Life In A Roman Town 79CE” . 279 artefacts excavated from the highly preserved archaeological site including jewelry, religious artefacts,  gladiator armour and of course, body casts of the actual victims of one of the ancient world’s greatest natural disaster will be on display.


Above: A wall carving that typically decorated the households of Romans in that era.

Above: The body cast of a victim who choked to death. Contrary to common belief, the body casts on display were actually made by one Giuseppe Fiorelli upon discovery of the victims and not actual preserved remains. But still there are known to move museum goers in many ways.

Above: A slave who died while still having his legs shackled.

Above: Humans weren’t the only victims of the Mount Vesuvius eruption – animals too were caught in the pyroclastic flow.

Above: A victim who huddled in the corner and tried to cover his mouth and nose to avoid breathing in the toxic fumes released.

Above: An authentic Gladiator helmet. “Are you not entertain?” – Gladiator

Above: A wall carving of the Roman god Poseidon.

Above: Jewelry that was given to a female slave from an owner. Sexual relations were not uncommon between a slave and the owner at that time.

Above: Two females huddling together in their final moments.

Above: A female who tried to crawl to safety.

Above: A couple who spent their final moments together.

Above: A dog which was left to guard the house. The dog was chained to a post. As the rain of ashes continued, the dog tried to climb higher by climbing nearby items. However, it soon reached the full length of the chain and suffocated to death.


3D Media Show: The Final Hours

An extremely well-made 3D re-enactment, entitled “The Final Hours” showed the fall of the town of Pompeii. Some scenes were so well depicted both in terms of content and production, that a  young, teenage girl infront of me flinched and tried to avoid the falling lava rocks that rained like mortar.

Between The Ashes and Through Time

There is a very surreal feeling when one enters threshold of the exhibit and lays eyes on the first body cast – a sense of time stopping at the exact moment when these people died. While some museum exhibits prove to be boring and quite dead, the Pompeii exhibit here at our very own Singapore National Museum tells a story, one  of death.

Indeed, Luigi Settembrini, a colleague of Giuseppe Fiorelli who made the body casts of the original victims once said — and this quote can be seen quite clearly on towards the exit of the exhibit;

“… they are human beings seen in their agony. This is not art, it is not imitation; these are their bones, the remains of their flesh and their clothes mixed with plaster, it is the sadness of death that characterises body and form. I see their wretchedness. I hear their cries as they call to their mothers, and I see them fall and writhe …”

Luigi Settembrini (1813-76)





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