Even history thousands of years ago is not so far away

Published: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 at 06:06 PM.

On a more somber tone, although nearly 2,000 years separate us from that August day, we saw up close and personal evidence of the disaster in the faces of its victims. They died of gas inhalation but were "gently" covered by ash like the city so even emotions were preserved.

Of course bodies decomposed away but molds of startling detail were left. When pumped full of liquid plaster, the ash gave up an astounding record of the tragedy.

Most of the body casts reside in museums, but on-site there was a display of victims complete with facial expression and what they were wearing at eruption. Certainly typing it seems a bit morbid but seeing the apparent normalcy of their existence against ours today is very weird and extremely enlightening. So much has changed, but even more seems to have stayed the same.

The city of Pompeii had running water. Yep, running water and a sewer system. Compare that to my close ancestors just a couple of centuries ago and we "moderns" come out severely lacking. At its peak, Rome was the center of the human universe and certainly deserved its ascendency.

We toured a spa with cold, warm and hot baths, and a sauna with an adjacent massage area. We saw evidences of their plumbing, which would put many cultures to shame today.

On the downside, they used lead piping, which contributed to a level of systemic mental problems. Fortunately, over time building deposits within those pipes semi-solved their lead-poisoning problems.

But lead remained a very big deal in the ancient world, even as moisture control lining in nicer homes. Because rulers and wealthy politicians routinely drank from lead-lined mugs, you might postulate the masses possessed superior functioning intellect.

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