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Photographer's Note

“HOUSE OF THE GEM” —HERCULANEUM

On two separate occasions — in 2001 on the Silver Wind, and again in 2005 on the Crystal Serenity— I visited Herculaneum. These were cruises on which I was serving as the Special Topics Lecturer. From Sorrento, where the ships anchored, it takes only an hour by train or car to get to the outskirts of Naples, where the excavated ruins of Herculaneum are located. Destroyed by the same eruption on August 2, AD 79 that destroyed Pompeii, Herculaneum is in many ways better preserved than Pompeii. Also whereas Pompeii was a working class city, Herculaneum was a summer seaside resort for well-heeled Romans, that is, until it was buried by 23 m (75 feet) of lava. The large number of human remains that were found among the ruins of Pompeii is missing in Herculaneum, making it less of a time capsule than its more famous fellow victim of that cataclysmic event.

The scene in the photograph is known as the “House of the Gem,” and dates from the Augustinian Period (27 BC-AD 16). In the bright sun the pastel colors certainly makes it a small architectural gem. Between pairs of columns there hang marble “oscilla,” masks in the Dionysian theme, used to ward off evil. They are seen as white disks in the picture. This practice in different ways has survived to this day, indeed warding off the evil eye is a timeless preoccupation that has survived in the Mediterranean world. Nowadays children in Turkey frequently have a small glass blue and white bead, the evil eye or “nazar boncugu,” pinned to their clothes. It may well be that wearing a small cross among Christians and Star of David among Jews resonate with a similar sentiment.

During the mid-18th century, excavators digging a well came upon the ruins of Herculaneum. I took this photo in 2005 with digital Fuji 4700. In posting at Trekearth, I made the mat (frame) surrounding the photograph in Photoshop, picking up the peach-pink hues from the walls. I am still unsure, however, whether including a mat with a photo in this manner, and giving up actual image size, helps or hinders the presentation. As an artist, I personally believe it can complement the image.

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Additional Photos by Bulent Atalay (batalay) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6057 W: 461 N: 10508] (35355)
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