Hercolaneum Archeological Excavations

Herculaneum was buried along with Pompeii in the devastating eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. Its excavations have brought to light an incredible amount of villas, shops, temples and houses dating back to the Roman Empire, when Herculaneum was a wealthy province and a busy commercial town.

Many centuries after it was buried and while the modern city of Resina had developed above it, the discovery of the buried city of Herculaneum was almost accidental, in the early 18th century, when the Austrian prince D’Elboeuf, which owned a villa in Portici, found out about a well excavated in the garden of the Alcantarini monks that led to a quite impressive structure covered with marbles: the ancient theatre of Herculaneum. D’Elboeuf continued the excavation, unearthing statues, columns, inscriptions, bronzes and decorative marbles and transferring them to the Villa Reale in Portici. The first thorough excavation campaign took place between 1738 and 1765, sponsored by Charles of Borbon and directed by Alcubierre (assisted by Carlo Weber) first and then by Francesco La Vega.

The exploration of the underground city, which was conducted in extremely difficult conditions, took place using tunnels that were immediately closed after the art pieces were taken; these tunnels reached many temples, the Basilica and the world famousVilla dei Papiri. Thanks to Carlo Weber and Francesco La Vega a map of the excavations was drafted, which was fundamental for the following research. From 1828 to 1835 and between 1869 and 1875 the results were very small, until Neapolitan archeologist Amedeo Maiuri started his work in 1927, which is continued still today.

Very recent findings have demonstrated how, like in Pompeii, not everyone in Herculaneum survived the eruption, considering the absence of bodies within the urban area of the city. Numerous skeletons were found though in the piece of land that separated the city from the Mediterranean sea: men, women and kids from every social class that were taken by the mud slide in their attempt to escape, some of them carrying their jewels or other objects. Even though a wide portion of ancient Herculaneum is now open to visitors (the one closest to the sea), sections of the Forum, the Necropolis and many houses and temples still remain covered by the modern town of Resina.

The visit can start at the Cardine III, an area populated by numerous houses.