What Does Pompeii Look Like

From its beginnings as a small fishing village, Pompeii grew to become a powerful Roman city with a population of over 20,000 people. It was a bustling hub of activity and commerce, as well as a major player in the highly competitive academic world.

But in 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius decided to intervene. Pompeii was buried under tonnes of ash and pumice, causing its streets, homes and public buildings to be entombed in the dark. For the last two millennia, it has remained hidden from sight.

Recent archaeological excavations, however, have revealed what Pompeii looks like today. In excavations that have taken place since the early 1700s, scientists have painstakingly unearthed a city with some of the most unique characteristics in the world.

The first thing that strikes a visitor to Pompeii is the sheer size of the city. The outer walls still stand and enclose an area of about 25 square kilometres – that’s about 38 football pitches!

Inside those walls are the remains of the town’s streets and buildings. The streets are laid out in the typical Roman grid pattern and are lined with tombs, temples, baths and houses. The houses, especially, capture the imagination as they appear almost undamaged, with some original furniture still intact.

The streets of Pompeii are also lined with striking frescos and mosaics which trace the daily lives of the ancient Pompeians. It’s easy to forget that you’re standing on the site of a huge disaster and to feel like you’ve taken a step back in time.

But there’s one feature of Pompeii that stands out above the rest – its preservation. The city has been virtually untouched since it was engulfed by Mount Vesuvius’ volcanic activity, giving us an unprecedented opportunity to learn about this ancient city.

The Effects of Mount Vesuvius

It’s easy to look at Pompeii and forget the devastating effects of Mount Vesuvius. Not only did it bury the city in a matter of hours, but all of its citizens perished in the ash, bringing the population from 20,000+ to zero.

Mount Vesuvius spewed the city with pumice and ash, covering it to the point where archaeologists could only spot the roof lines and walls of buildings. The ash had hardened incredibly quickly, preserving the structures of the city and its contents, almost exactly how they were before the eruption.

Archaeologists who excavated Pompeii were astonished to find goods and utensils, still lying on tables and on the ground where they had settled in the ash before their homes had crumbled. Small everyday items such as combs, food, wine and amphorae revealed details about the ancient Roman lifestyle.

The position of the city’s inhabitants were strikingly evident in their death poses – largely unchanged since their last living moments. Tragically, many of the Pompeiians had lost their lives in the act of fleeing the city, and their bodies were found with faces frozen in terror.

The Great Pompeii Project

In 2012, the Italian and EU governments launched the Great Pompeii Project, a 10-year plan to preserve the ancient city’s vast archaeological and urban remains.

The project strives to create a complex system to protect and defend Pompeii against natural damage, as well as decay and environmental pollution caused by human intervention. This includes a vast network of state-of-the-art security systems and integrated surveillance systems.

The project also aims to restore the archaeological material, giving life back to the abandoned city. This involves ensuring that the buildings and frescos are carefully conserved, as well as restoring the city’s beautiful, yet fragile, statuary.

The city’s vast collection of artworks, from mosaics to wall frescoes, have been restored to their glory and are now displayed in an interactive and immersive digital exhibit. Visitors can virtually explore the ancient streets and ruins of Pompeii, with virtual tours and hosted talks available to enhance the experience.

The project is one of the largest archaeological projects in the world, not just in scope, but also in terms of its purpose and ambition. It is dedicated to helping us understand and appreciate the tragic events that unfolded in Pompeii, as well as the city’s incredible architecture and culture.

The Future of Pompeii

With the financial backing of the EU and the Italian governments, archaeologists are now beginning to prepare for a new era of exploration in Pompeii. Excavations are set to expand beyond the old city walls and deeper into areas that were previously inaccessible or just not investigated.

This will result in a new, even more detailed understanding of Pompeii, including its residential, commercial and industrial quarters. It will also provide insight into a range of activities and economic activities taking place in the ancient city.

The future of Pompeii looks bright. The Great Pompeii Project is just the beginning of a new era of exploration and discovery that will help us to fully comprehend the terrfic destruction of Mount Vesuvius, and the incredible achievements of the city’s ancient inhabitants.

Vaults and the Preserved Goods of Pompeii

In some of Pompeii’s houses, the most interesting finds are the vaulted rooms – these were used as cold-rooms and storehouses. Here, you can find food, oil, wheat and barley, all of which were perfectly preserved by the ash. There were also finer goods, such as bronzes, decorated ceramics, coins, jewellery and precious stones – all perfectly preserved by the ash with details of the original workmanship often still visible.

It’s no surprise that these valuable goods were preserved – the city was buried under thick layers of ash and pumice. This meant that the goods were safe from looting and the passing of time, giving us a unique insight into the everyday life of the Pompeiians.

But the most incredible finds from the vaults are the carbonised foodstuffs, such as fruits, vegetables and pasta, still edible after two millennia. They are now available for scientific testing, giving us access to invaluable information about the diet of the ancient Pompeiians.

These goods, along with the other artefacts and artworks found during excavations, provide us with a detailed view of Pompeii and its people. They give us a unique insight into the lives and beliefs of the ancient Romans and allow us to better understand their world.

The Preservation of Pompeii

In 1997, the site of Pompeii was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. This means that the ancient city is now recognised as having outstanding universal value and must be protected and conserved. This is particularly important because while much of the site has been preserved by the ash, there are other threats that could damage the city’s fragile remains.

In recent decades, Pompeii has been threatened by vandalism, pollution, and overexploitation. This has resulted in the destruction of many of the ancient city’s buildings and mosaics, and has also put a strain on the city’s infrastructure.

To combat this, UNESCO has developed a framework for the protection and preservation of the city’s archaeological and urban remains. This includes strict guidelines on the development of new infrastructure and tourism around the site, as well as educational campaigns to promote the conservation of Pompeii’s extraordinary remains.

It is clear that Pompeii is an invaluable asset that must be protected and preserved. The valuable lessons and cultural insights we can draw from this ancient city are irrefutable – it must be safeguarded and admired for millennia to come.


Pompeii is a living testament to the perils of life, as well as the incredible achievements of the ancient Pompeiians. It is an archaeological treasure trove providing us with unique insight into the past, and its potent legacy echoes across the centuries.

The Great Pompeii Project and UNESCO’s conservation efforts mean that this ancient city is now being safeguarded and protected, ensuring that its timeless legacy lives on.

Herman Shaw is a passionate traveler and avid photographer who has seen many of the world's most awe-inspiring monuments. He has developed expertise in various aspects of world architecture and culture which he enjoys sharing with his readers. With deep historical knowledge and insight, Herman's writing brings life to these remarkable artifacts and highlights their importance in the grand scheme of human history.

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