Wine, winged hares, hanging penises: how to party like a ...


Wine, winged hares, hanging penises: how to party like a Pompeiian

A groundbreaking exhibition explores what they were dining on before Vesuvius erupted - here's a taster

Hannah Betts

This month an Italian tourist will make her way to Oxford, UK, a fact that would be unremarkable if she had not died more than 2,000 years ago.

The “Resin Lady” from Oplontis, near Pompeii, was killed by one of the devastating 300°C pyroclastic surges – great avalanches of broiling gas, ash and rock – from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the year 79. She and 61 other terrified Romans were in a villa-cum-food-import-and-export-plant, having taken shelter in a vaulted storeroom facing the sea. The refugees were divided into two groups: rich and poor. Both met the same fate, entombed in debris until the mid-80s.

The Resin Lady was one of the wealthy, most likely from the family that owned this flourishing food business. She was brought back into being using an experimental technique whereby a wax cast was created from the void left when her body decomposed. Around this, a wax mould was built, into which transparent resin was poured. Cut down in the prime of life between 35 and 40, the Resin Lady had her riches with her – gold jewels, a key and some coins. However, she also carried something far more poignant: an inexpensive necklace made of pottery beads...

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