National Geographic : 1961 Nov
Last Moments of the Pompeians an attitude of fierce struggle against their fate; others recline peacefully as though in sleep. It is like a vision of the Last Judgment, when the dead shall be clothed again in flesh at the signal of the angel's trumpet. Though the mold formations have long been known, we have never found such a large and well-preserved group as our 13 fugitives. That is what makes them so exciting, and why we have studied them with such care. With the casts completed, we can reconstruct the victims' last moments in terrible detail. When the band at last decided to flee, one of the tenant-farmer families led the way. First came a servant, carrying over his shoul der a bag hastily filled with provisions. We found him where he fell, near the wall of a vegetable garden - a cabbage patch, by the look of the furrows. (We know that cabbages were a Pompeian specialty.) The man was still in a crouched position, suggesting not so much the weight of the sack as the dense darkness and the violent, eruption-born winds through which he struggled. Next, hand in hand, came the farmer's two little boys of about four and five, who prob ably only hours earlier had romped in the greenery and sunshine of the garden. Now perhaps, in the inferno and the darkness, they called out pathetically in order not to be left behind. Neither child, we discovered, wore the good-luck amulet commonly hung around the necks of Pompeian children to ward off evil. Near by, we did find a piece of tile and a crude iron utensil, doubtless used by the children as makeshift head guards. Excavated Ruins Along the Mercurian Way Open a Window on the Past Killed swiftly at the zenith of its wealth and power, Pompeii lay locked in the earth for generations. As memory of the disaster faded, man forgot the city's location and even its name. Workmen digging an irrigation tunnel penetrated Pompeii's ruins in 1594, but failed to recognize their discovery. Excavation, not begun until 1748, has exposed an ancient city preserved as in a museum. Viewed from a tower on the north wall, the Mercurian Way terminates at the Arch of Caligula. Roofed buildings shelter frescoes and artifacts. Polygonal blocks of lava pave the Street of the Forum near the city's heart. Vesuvius looms beyond the Arch of Caligula. Archeologists supplied the place names. KODACHROMESBY MELVILLEBELL GROSVENOR(BELOW) AND LEE E. BATTAGLIA,NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSTAFF ) N.G .S.