Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Pompeii: Unearthing Ancient Worlds

Pompeii: Unearthing Ancient Worlds

Liz Sonneborn
For ages 12 and up
Lerner, 2008   ISBN: 978-0822575054

Though the people living in the port city of Pompeii had experienced a few earthquakes in the last few days, on August 24, A.D. 79 they were going about their lives as usual. Then, at around one o'clock in the afternoon, the mountain of Vesuvius, which towered over the city, began to erupt. Within hours lapilli - a type of volcanic material – was falling on Pompeii. Within a few days Pompeii and the two nearby towns of Herculaneum and Stabiae were covered with ash, lapilli, and lava.

The buried towns remained forgotten for many hundreds of years until one day, in 1738, when Charles of Bourbon, the self proclaimed king of the Two Sicilies, heard that a farmer had found marble objects in one of his fields. Charles sent one of his soldiers, Joachin de Alcubierre, to investigate. Alcubierre discovered that many such antiquities had been found over the years and under the king's instructions Alcubierre began to dig in the town of Resina.

Unfortunately for archeologists and historians of the future, Alcubierre was only interested in finding treasures for his king. He made no effort to properly record what he saw in the underground excavations that he carried out, and once he was sure that an area had nothing more to offer, the tunnels that were dug were filled in. It was only when a Swiss military engineer called Karl Jakob Weber began to work on the excavations that more care was taken with the Herculaneum and Pompeii sites. Weber saw that there was much to be learned about the ancient Roman world from the excavations and that it was worth taking the time to do the excavations in an organized and careful way.

In this excellent title the author tells the story of one of the world's most exciting and influential archeological finds. The story begins with an account of the eruption in A.D. 79 and then goes on to describe how the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were brought to light. There are excellent annotated photographs throughout the book, along with maps, diagrams, quotes, and more. Readers will be left with a clear understanding of how important these archeological sites were and still are, and they will also learn a great deal about Pompeii and its archeological treasures.