Thursday, April 27, 2017

Hatshepsut, the woman Pharaoh


The funerary temple of Hatshepsut, the woman Pharaoh

    I have been entertained recently with how modern science is changing what we know of history, even history from 3500 years ago.

    A case in point is what has been learned about Hatshepsut, the woman Pharaoh whose rule resulted in the construction of many major structures that I explored in a cruise along the Nile and in a visit to the Valley of the Kings in 2002 .

    At about 440-feet-long and 97-feet-high the most impressive is her funerary temple called "Djeser Djeseru" or "Holy of Holies." 

    Her reign had been a peaceful one of 22 years. Our guide pointed out that references and facial features of  Hatshepsut had been chiseled from the wall and statures by Thutmose III, who had hated her and wanted her eradicated from history.  After her death he seceded her, went to war and doubled the size of the kingdom.

    Her mummy had vanished from her tomb that was 35 stories deep in the Valley of the Kings, and that seemed to be the end of what we could know about her.

    A few days later when I visited the Cairo Museum, the most important mummies were being kept under ideal condition to avoid further decay, therefore  unavailable for public viewing.

    In 2007 Zahi Hawass, from the Cairo Museum, and his team undertook the task of finding Hatshepsut's mummy.  They found they had eight unidentified female mummies who might be Hatshepsut, one of whom had been found in her nurse's sarcophagus. 

    A number of approaches using modern techniques were used.  DNA failed making the identification for lack of enough material.  The bodies of known relatives were put through cat scans for clues.

    Three cat scans were borrowed from Germany that allowed the researchers to get 3D figures of her father, her brother and a stepson, that were then combined for a composite image.  That allowed them to discard some of the mummies.

    In 2010 I had been at the British Museum when they were exploring the first mummy to undergo the virtual unwrapping using a CT scanner.  In the display room the mummy's image was floating in the air in gross non-living color.  What was his age? How did he die? Had he any injuries?  A multitude of facts about the mummy were discovered.  Basically it was a learning experience about some new technology that were being used.

    Then recently I have found on YouTube and other computer sources a much fuller explanation of what happened to Hatshepsut.  Being able to tell how a person died turned out to be critical in identifying her body. 

    Of the two bodies that were still in question, one of them had died of a jaw infection that had made it impossible for her to eat.  Some dentistry had been performed, and a upper molar taken out leaving a root behind.

    When a person was made into a mummy, internal organs were taken out and placed in a separate small box, usually made of wood and ivory.  Such a box was found with Hatshepsut's name on it. 

    In the box were a liver, intestines and a upper molar with just one root.  The tooth had the same density, size and fit into the space in the mummy's jaw with the one root.   The team concluded that the forgotten mummy was Hatshepsut's.

    The research also meant that Thutmose III had not had her killed as originally thought.  In addition it was found that he had not destroyed her images until many years later.  It was believed that Thutmose did it to insure the smooth succession of his son Thutmose IV and to insure his family would take credit for the history she had left behind.

    Since my visit in 2002, other relics of Hatshepsut have been found including buried images and stories about her accomplishments.  She is no longer dead to history because of the advances that have been made in science.

A close up the funerary temple of Hatshepsut

 A box similar to the one where Hatshepsut's liver, intestines and a upper molar were found.

Natural Bridge, Lexington, Virginia


Natural Bridge, near Lexington, Virginia

    When I attended a Chautauqua Road Scholar program at the Natural Bridge Hotel in a rather isolated area about 20 miles from Lexington, Va., Jeffery Ruggles, program administrator for the Virginia Commonwealth University, was the outstanding lecturer who prepared us to explore the bridge.

     The Natural Bridge is  a landmark that in the 1700s was, along with Niagara-Falls, a major attraction to visitors from Europe.  It later made some of the lists of the seven natural wonders of the world.

     Ruggles showed us pictures of other natural bridges from around the world, some of them as striking as this one, but he said this one had had the advantage of location, timing and good public relations. 

    Thomas Jefferson, early in his career as a traveling lawyer, visited the area and was very impressed with the site.  With his connections in government he was able to get a grant of land that included the bridge in 1774.  He made eight visits to the area and on some occasions was in the saddle for six days when making the trip. 

    In 1750 at the age of 18 George Washington is said to have surveyed the area and the initials GW carved on the wall are claimed to be his.  (Later I learned this was carved by someone else.)

    A French army officer drew pictures of the arch that were widely distributed in France. It became so popular that it showed up as wallpaper designs.  One example we were shown had the local Indian Tribe in front of the arch.

    Jefferson kept a cabin in the area for visitors to stay in on their visits with a logbook for them to sign in on.  It is reported that many famous Americans, including his friends who were or had been president, signed in along with many famous international visitors, but the log has been lost.

    Lead dropped through a sieve from the top into the water below created perfectly round bullets.  After Jefferson’s death the bridge was sold in 1846, at which time a hotel for visitors was built.  Hot Springs in the area also attracted visitors and the Natural Bridge was on its way as a major international attraction. 

    An iron cage was put on ropes and visitors could pay to be lowered down the center as a violinist played.

    After the Civil War visitors came by train and for 50 years this was the main way of getting here.  Than after 1926 cars became the main form of travel.   For years it was privately owned, then bought by a non-profit that turned it over to the State of Virginia so it could become a State Park 2016.

   Our group enjoyed the bridge two ways, one by day and one by night.  We entered through a visitor's center and walked down 137 steps to Cedar Creek that passes under it and looked up at 20 stories of carved rock.  A highway passes over the 90 foot long arch. 

   Exploring the area was a charming experience.  Once we passed under it we were offered not only a beautiful nature trail with a falls at the end, but a reconstructed Monacan Indian Village from 300 years ago. 

    The interpreters were dressed in period Indian customs and performing daily tasks such as hide tanning, mat weaving and making pots and baskets.  The re-enactors were eager to share information about what they were doing. 

    Later we came down to the light-and-sound show that had been established in 1927 when President Calvin Coolidge had turned the first lights on.  A large audience sat on benches listening to the audio, a combination of classic music and readings from Genesis about creation.  I noted the colored lights lacked a bit of the excitement of modern lasers.

    However, the Natural Bridge is still a major attraction which I enjoyed exploring--and it is easier to travel to than many sites I have struggled to reach. Many of our group also visited the Natural Bridge Caverns in the area.

Friday, March 24, 2017



A reproduction of the Parthenon in Nashville, TN

World wonders like the Pompeii in Italy and the Parthenon in Greece make many people's bucket lists of what to explore before they die.  But are the original sites always the best or only way to experience the wonders?

I  thought about this question recently when I read about how the British Museum in London replicated one of the 15 Metopes which Lord Elgin had taken from the Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens.  Originally there had been 92 of these marble 5-feet-by-5-feet marble high relief figures in various battles circling the upper outside wall of the Parthenon. 

Depicted are the battle with the giants, battle with the Amazons, the Sack of Troy and the Battle of the Centaurs.  The front wall was of centaurs, half-horse-half man, battling Greeks after the centaurs tried to abduct Greek women.

This means to see the Parthenon you would really need to go to two places, Athens and London.  I visited Athens in 1972 with my wife and our two oldest teenage daughters. 

We admired the remnants of the building as the epitome of Greek culture, but in another way we found it a sad sight with rubble lying on all sides and most of the statuary destroyed, damaged or taken somewhere else.

Before 1687 the Parthenon had been in excellent condition because of its original masterful construction in 456B.C.  In 1687 during a war between Greeks and the Turks,  a gunpowder explosion did significant damage to the interior.  Even the sculptures transferred to the British Museum by Lord Elgin had missing pieces such as heads, arms, legs. 

Statues from the Greek Parthenon now housed in the British Museum in London

The British Museum picked one Metope to replicate, a centaur attacking a Greek who was on his back.  Both heads were missing, the centaur was missing parts of four legs and both arms, and the Greek was missing a leg and an arm.

A drawing from 1674 showed the Metope with both warriors in full body with heads.  The heads had been taken by a Danish naval officer and are now in the Danish National Museum, Copenhagen.

With this material available the British Museum was able to make a 3D picture of what the Metopes had looked like with all its parts, and by using a 3D printer had been able to make an exact copy of the physical object.  The copy allowed them to add other details, such as the Greek's sword, his head piece and cloak.  The Greeks painted their sculptures and this added drama and emotion to the completed Metope. 

When we visited Athens, the Greeks’ point of view was that Elgin had stolen their property and that the only honorable thing would be to return them.  With this breakthrough in recreating exact replicas that give a truer pictures of what the originals were like will make it possible for Greece to partially  recondition the Parthenon and restore it to some of its original glory.  

In the meantime if you don't want to wait, an excellent full-size reproduction is in Nashville, Tenn.  Nashville built a temporary replica of the Parthenon in 1897 for the Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition.

The builders got permission to make plaster replicas of the Elgin Marbles, which were displayed along the sides of the interior. The building was so popular, it was left standing. When it began to show its age, the city rebuilt a complete permanent replica that was opened in 1931. As marble is extremely expensive, it was built principally of reinforced concrete.

Later renovations included unveiling a nearly 43-foot statue in 1990 of Athena, a replica of the original statue inside the Parthenon.  Actually this copy gives you a fuller picture of the what original was like than the original in Athens does.

In Athens you are standing on the ground that the Greeks stood on, and you are in presence of real history.  In Nashville you are in the visual presence of what the Parthenon really looked like.

 Take your choice if you can't make all three spots--Athens, London, or Nashville.

The 45 foot tall reproduction of Athena in Nashville, Parthenon

A reproduction of a frieze off the wall of the Parthenon

A Metope in the British Museum showing the kind of objects that can now be reproduced on 3D printers

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Vice President's Museum

The Dan Quayle Vice Presidents Museum in Huntington, Indiana

            When we were near the Quayle Vice Presidential Learning Center in Huntington, IN., we decided to drop in, as we are fascinated by any "one of a kind" museum.  This is the only attraction that covers  the services of all of our 47 vice  presidents up to early 2017--many times involving acid-tongued comments and playful jokes.       

            James Danforth Quayle, Vice President for George Bush (1989-93),  made some attempt to continue in politics after his term, but soon fell from view.   

             Daniel Johns, the Executive Director, met us at the museum entrance.  Originally the Quayle Museum started  with a some of Quayle's personal items, but Johns decided to expand the museum into a place that included activities for  students in the surrounding school districts so they could learn about the constitution and presidential campaigns.

            To make it more interesting for students they often are put on scavenger hunts to find answers to questions such as: Who was the only Native American vice president?  How many vice presidents died in office? Which vice presidents became president of the United States? 

            The museum, that is on two floors, presents the story of the vice presidents with the memorabilia from their lives, in sequence from John Adams, George Washington's Vice President.

            The museum stresses that five vice presidents and three losing vice presidential candidates were from Indiana. Johns said this was because at one time Indiana had been a swing state.  Our most recent vice president, Mike Pence is from Columbus, IN.

            We were astonished to find how little was known about many of the 19th century vice presidents who seemed to be very mediocre people with little qualification to be president if the opportunity arose.

             Johns has had trouble finding anything to display about them, since many had no posters, no newspaper stories and few personal artifacts.  

            Qualifications of candidates for the office improved in the latter half the 20th century when out of the 13 vice presidents, four became president and two almost became president.  This may be because later presidents wanted vice presidents they could give more responsibilities to.

            Johns noted how Theodor Roosevelt had been made Vice President because it was a useless position with no power and the power men of the time feared what Roosevelt might do to the monopolies they controlled if he was given power.  

            When President William McKinley was assassinated, Roosevelt fulfilled their fears by putting limits on monopolies.  The powerful business leaders then attempted to control the situation after he was election to his own term by giving him Charles Warren Fairbank (who was from Indiana) as a vice president expecting that Fairbanks would control Roosevelt's progressive programs.  While the vice president failed to put controls on Roosevelt, congress did block many of his programs. 

            Later more newspapers and magazines gave more  coverage to vice presidents.  Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Vice President John Nance Garner said, "The Vice Presidency isn't worth a pitcher of warm spit."  Garner also called himself the president's "spare tire."     

            Roosevelt's next Vice President Henry Wallace, however, went on to be a globe-trotting ambassador for the wheelchair-bound President.

            At one display we were struck with how ridicule may have led to Vice President Hubert Humphrey defeat by Richard Nixon when he was shown in a poster on President Johnson's knee being used as a puppet.

            Life and status have improved markedly in recent years for the vice presidents.  They are now furnished fine housing, a large staff, big SUVs with drivers and a good salary.

            Johns also makes visits to schools, concentrating on fourth, fifth and eighth graders.  He began his career as an actor and enjoys developing programs that get students involved by using interactive activities.

            The second floor has a large conference room where Johns can have the students (who range from  first graders to sophomores in high school) re-enact a presidential primarily so they can learn how presidential candidates are chosen. 


Nelson-Atkins Art Museum

            The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City is at of the top of  U.S, art museums according the U.S. Today, based on the list of 20 museums on the "number of reviews  and overall star ratings."
            Every time we have entered the Nelson-Atkins, we have enjoyed piece by piece a different highlight tour. Recently after exploring two special traveling exhibits, we were fortunate to discover our docent that day was Lisa Curran, an interior  designer who had graduated from Stephens College. She was eager to highlight five galleries for us on what became a delightful interactive tour.
            We started  in the Bloch Building, the recent modern addition of five glass pavilions to the east of the original building.  The Bloch building houses the contemporary,  African,  photography and special exhibitions.
            Curran would pick out an object to concentrate our attention on, such as a king's throne in the African exhibition that was made from beads she explained were imported and very expensive.

A King's throne in the African exhibition made from beads

            One  gallery of modern art was created by artists disturbed by bouts of depression, who were working out some of their own problems on their canvases, for example Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock .   She noted that all the artists in this gallery had known and influenced each other.
            Visitors vary on what canvases they prefer; for example. to Wayne the work of Mark Rothko just looks to be patches of color on color.  Curran enjoyed and valued his work and like most docents we have met made an attempt to help Wayne see the deeper meaning in the work.
             At the Post-Impressionists  we concentrated on Van Gogh, Monet and Gauguin. Curran commented  on their use of light and color and how they were the first to work in outside light and use it differently than previous artists. 
            On a more modern note we saw a number of Thomas Hart Benton works. We are familiar with his art from the Truman Library and state Capital in Jefferson City.  We had previously written a story on the traveling exhibition that been at the Nelson several years ago, highlighting Benton as one of Missouri's greatest artists.
            The major contribution to build the collection at the Nelson-Atkins came in the form of money from William Nelson.  That allowed the curators to purchase the collection during the Great Depression when a vast market was available because there were so few buyers.
            The museum is widely known for its extensive Chinese art collection.  Again getting the pieces was a matter of luck in that the man who purchased the art works, Laurence Sickman was in China in the 1930's.  He spoke fluent Chinese and had studied Chinese history and art.  Nelson gave him 11 million dollars to build a collection of Chinese paintings, sculpture and furniture for the museum at a time when prices were low and the art could be taken out of the country. The museum claims 7,000 pieces spanning 5000 years.

A Chinese carving, Guanyin of the Southern Sea

            In the Chinese section Curran called our attention to a large figure carved from wood and beautifully painted called Guanyin of the Southern Sea that she said with the finest sculpture of its kind outside of China. She said the Chinese would like some of the Nelson-Atkins collection of Chinese art back.
            Waiting for the High Lights Tour we had watched a presentation on the 11 million dollar renovation of the Bloch Galleries of European art that will open March 11, 2017. For art lovers this will certainly be worth a trip.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

World War 1 Museum

KC Museum marks 100th anniversary of U.S. entry into WWI

The National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City.

One section of the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City shows the chronology of the war that lasted from 1914-1919. [Courtesy of Wayne Anderson]

The Horizon Theater at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City has a 110-foot screen overlooking a scene of four soldiers walking across a devastated landscape. [Courtesy of Wayne Anderson]

           This year marks the 100th anniversary of the U.S. declaration of war on Germany and subsequent participation in World War I. To commemorate the centennial, the Kansas City World War I Museum, with one of the largest collections of WWI artifacts in the world, will show special exhibits and presentations throughout the year.

            When walking toward the entrance, we crossed the glass floor with a field of poppies below us, which reminded us of the lines: "In Flanders fields the poppies blow between the crosses, row on row", from the poem "In Flanders Fields," which suggests the horrendous loss of life - more than 17 million - during the war.

            An introductory movie described the accident that began the war. The Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, while visiting Sarajevo in Bosnia, was shot when his car took a wrong turn, putting him right in front of the spot where an assassin was standing. Both Ferdinand and his wife were shot, and a Browning .38-caliber short, similar to the murder weapon, is at the entrance to the museums' displays.

            At that time, Germany feared the power of France because of the devastation Napoleon had wrought in Europe. Powerful rulers, although often related through the offspring of Britain’s Queen Victoria, mistrusted each other. Nervous about other countries’ intentions, rulers formed alliances and agreed that if one went to war, the others also would enter the fray. Germany paired with the powerful Austria-Hungary empire and Russia with Serbia. France had an alliance with Russia and Britain with France.

            The conflict became known as World War I only after the start of World War II. Before then, it was known simply as the Great War.

            The East Gallery focuses on the history and weapons from the start of the war in 1914 to our entry in 1917. The West Gallery tells the story of the war from 1917 to its end in 1919 with heavy emphasis on the U.S. participation.

            In the first section, the rifles of each of the armies helped us understand the sheer number involved from around the world. Propaganda posters line the upper wall demonstrating how the troops were shown the importance of their participation.

            We were especially impressed with the models of trenches used on the European Western front where so many soldiers died. The Germans had well-built trenches that paid attention to the comfort of the troops by keeping their feet out of the water and providing better sleeping conditions.

            When we looked into a British trench, we could see trash and debris building up. French trenches were the worst - poorly built, often collapsing and generally getting so bad it was one of the reasons the troops mutinied.

            New weapons were being introduced to the troops, and one of the problems was that the major officers directing the battles did not take the modern weapons' efficiency into account. Troops were marched directly into machine gun fire that decimated them.

            The war eventually became trench warfare. By 1917, along the 460-mile Western Front, troops had dug 35,000 miles of trenches.

            Besides the deadly machine gun, new weapons included poison gas, fast-firing heavy artillery and, as the war progressed, airplanes and tanks. German submarines and their torpedoes sank ships at a heavy rate - their sinking of American ships is one of the reasons we entered the war. Battleships became major players in the sea war.

            The most impressive display resides halfway through the museum. We stood at a railing overlooking no-man's land with four mannequin soldiers, who were trying to avoid the mud and wreckage. In front of us was a 110-foot-by-20-foot screen.

            Abruptly, black-and-white moving pictures from the war appeared: original films from the period that showed trench warfare and the war at sea that eventually brought the United States into the war when Germany started sinking ships carrying supplies to the Allies.

            One of the defining events of our entry was the Germans attempting to get Mexico to start a war with the United States to keep us out of the war in Europe.

            The opening displays to the Western Gallery introduced us to the participation of women in the war as factory workers, guards, firefighters, and heavy machine operators. One section is devoted to the 25,000 American women who provided support to the troops in Europe. About 13,000 were in the Army or Marines, where they served as clerical help, while most of the others served as nurses. Their roles in the war helped advance women’s right to vote.

            While the East Gallery has a good collection of artillery weapons, the West Gallery is where we saw our first tank and truck along with a team of horses pulling weapons.

            Throughout the museum are small screen films of what was going on at home during the war, statistics about the number of deaths and what was happening in other parts of the world.

            Every attempt is made to make this a learning experience for the visitor, with special attention paid to children with the use of a family gallery guide where children can do scavenger hunts for items or find answers to questions such as, "Which four states sent the most soldiers from America 'Over There?' "

            At the end of tour we were informed of the failures of the treaty at Versailles and the redrawing of the world map that resulted from the war.

            While no one seemed to have anticipated that this war would set the stage for the start of a war 20 years later, the final exhibit notes that three of the most powerful leaders came out of this war with attitudes that would lead to World War II: Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin.

            On the Allies' side, future leaders involved were Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and an artillery captain from Missouri, Harry Truman.

            Atop the WWI Museum stand three structures: a high tower visitors can ride to the top to view Kansas City, a Memory Hall and an Exhibit Hall used for special and temporary exhibits.

            On our last visit in January, the Exhibit Hall had "They Shall Not Pass, 1916," the story of the death, destruction and the staggering number of unnecessary losses in the battles of the Somme and Verdun.

Reach Wayne and Carla Anderson a

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Traveling with Children


by Wayne & Carla Anderson

In the holiday season we asked our four daughters what memories they recall about the benefits, fun,  struggles and surprises about traveling with us until they finished  high school.

 They all stressed how much they learned about how people in various parts of our country and the rest of the world lived and had different  customs.

Jerilyn, our oldest daughter, especially enjoyed the year we lived three months each in four countries where she heard many stories in the museu
ms-- not just focusing on historical facts.   She did feel that "visits to any more cathedrals were more than a bit  too much"---so we listened and adapted.       

We were still in the days then of flat tires, running out of gas and emergency bathroom stops, sometimes in the nearest woods.  When Debra, daughter No. 2,  heard a long ago friend say, "If you don't like inconvenience, don't travel," she laughed and said that "traveling was a challenge that helped me improve my  problem solving skills.  I certainly learned how to use a map in planning trips--long before GPSs became available ."  

When Rosalyn, born exactly six years later than Debra, said that "Traveling broadened my mind about the differences in how other people lived.  I mostly had a great time, but I did have some concerns."  When she went to the third grade for three months in a small town in England, she missed a few recess times because she refused to eat the liver and cabbage offered.  She was also concerned that "I may lose my best friend if I am gone a year!"

When her sister Stephanie was in the first grade there, she was a little surprised to be called a Yankee. A rule that surprised her was that girls had to wear skirts, not slacks, unless the weather was bitter cold, but she coped rather easily.

When we were taking a long walk in the woods, she sat down in the middle of the path and said,  "I'm really getting tired of getting toughened in."  She came back to the U.S. with the cutest English accent.          

Both sisters enjoyed being surrounded by students-- a nice break from being home schooled as they lived in four countries in that year learning about Europe.    

Traveling with children gives them an opportunity to see and do things in the world in a way present digital equipment does not allow.  They may hold all the knowledge in the world in the palm of their hand, and be connected instantly with all of their friends but that kind of lifestyle does not include  the reality of skiing down a mountain, canoeing on a lake or cooking a meal over an open fire.

We discovered the joys of traveling with children with our first two daughters when we lived in Maryland on Chesapeake Bay.  In our free time we explored the east coast camping in a tent, cooking our food on a gas burner and bonding us as a family.

When we returned to Columbia in 1963, we shortly  added two more daughters and decided to add a travel trailer.  We started exploring the west: Petrified Forest, Grand Canyon and  Colorado with its ghost towns and skiing sites.

Wayne was able to take sabbaticals for a year each in 1972-73 and 1978-79 and several summers to teach for the U.S. Air Force in Europe-- eight different villages in five different countries.

We took folk marches with the natives in Germany and Italy and had them as next door neighbors.   In Italy we only had our two youngest daughters with us who were then 12 and 10.   Italy was their favorite country, because of the food, the friendly people and its multiple attractions especially Rome, Venice and Florence. Jerilyn and Debra were able to join us to see some of the Italian sites.

During this time we were also still traveling to visit family around the country and attending family reunions--one with our relatives in Sweden. 

We continue our travels with family members.  Rosalyn's children took a Road Scholar week with us in Northern Minnesota where we took the ropes course, canoed and learned how to navigate with a compass in the woods.  Stephanie's twin daughters have traveled with us frequently to Tennessee sites.

We are looking forward to continuing traveling as long as we can and having a Merry Christmas with our extended family.    

In Cork, Ireland we all had a chance to kiss the Blarney Stone, which gives you a special power with words.

In Holland we pretend to be an old fashioned Dutch family

With two of our daughters at the home my father was born in, in Sweden

Feeding the birds in Venice in St. Marks Square

In the early days we traveled by trailer

Pompeii: The Exhibtion

Pompeii exhibit offers a glance at ancient life frozen in time

As part of the exhibit, several casts are shown of people and animals in the last positions they held when Mount Vesuvius erupted Aug. 24, 79 A.D. Here, the cast of a man with a child in his arms is displayed.

                Wayne Anderson


Bottom of Form

One of the most magical happenings in this world is that nature both can destroy a piece of land dramatically and preserve it in some way that astonishes us later.

            It was this feat that fascinated us as we explored “POMPEII: The Exhibition,” which will run through spring at Union Station in Kansas City.

            Even before entering, we were given a taste of what to expect. The hallway walls toward the entrance featured reproductions of paintings and frescos that once adorned walls of the Pompeii Romans, a level of art sophistication not to be achieved again for centuries.

            In the waiting area, a short film showed the comfortable lifestyle of richer citizens and their complete lack of foresight what was to happen to their city and its 11,000 people on Aug. 24, 79 A.D, when Mount Vesuvius erupted.

            The exhibit doors opened and we were introduced to first-century Roman Empire life. The exhibit’s first three quarters details Roman citizens’ lives — made more comfortable by the large number of slaves taken captive as Rome conquered Europe and Africa. Slaves earned their freedom by selling their services as cooks, doctors and gladiators.

            The area’s soil was richer than in the rest of Italy, enabling a steady diet of fruits, vegetables, fish and other seafood.

            One poster on display shared a recipe that used a favorite seasoning of Pompeii citizens, garum. Made from fermented crushed tuna and the intestines of moray eels in salt, the seasoning was enjoyed throughout the Roman Empire.

            Artifacts loaned from the Naples National Archaeological Museum in Italy illustrated the Pompeii artisans’ sophistication. Original weapons, lamps, jugs, furniture, medical instruments and tools used in their everyday life were shown. The fine work on the clay and metal lamps, and an accompanying audio tour also detailed the items and lifestyle of Pompeii citizens.


As part of the exhibit, several casts are shown of people and animals in the last positions they held when Mount Vesuvius erupted Aug. 24, 79 A.D. Here, the cast of a dog is displayed as he defends the doorway to a house.

            Romans flaunted their wealth with elegant frescos on walls, mosaics covering floors and comfortable dining areas with sofas. They had a rule that dinner was always taken in groups of at least three and never more than nine, a tradition modeled after their relationships with their many gods.

            A wall-sized film showed drone footage of Pompeii, giving us a good idea of the size and condition of the present site that had been forgotten soon after the destruction. It was only 250 years ago that the site became a tourist destination.

            Another film showed how Mount Vesuvius erupted — the 24 hours of destruction began with earth shaking and rumbling, followed by spilling ash. Later, lava and more ash flowed, followed by rocks, gas and smoke. The finale was a dead city buried under 13 to 20 feet of volcanic ash and pumice, burying the site for 1,500 years.

            We walked into the room of the remains, where casts have captured the last moments of several Pompeii citizens and animals. The eruption happened so fast that people were captured while moving, creating long-lasting images of their final movements on Earth.

            When experts excavated the site, they used plaster to fill the voids in the ash layers that held the bodies in the positions they were in when they died. We saw a man on his back holding up a child, another sitting and covering his face with his hands, and a dog curled as if ready to defend the door he was guarding.

            The section also covered the gladiators of Pompeii, who seemed to function under less deadly rules of combat than those in Rome. There were fewer battles to the death and, if a gladiator was good enough, at some point he could buy his freedom.

            Other rooms introduced us to some of the secrets of the city, including prostitution, both legal and widespread. Many men preferred prostitutes since they often married for financial reasons, family connections and to have children. The prostitutes largely were slaves, and pornography was common.

            Watching nature destroy an entire city saddened us but learning the lifestyle of the ancient citizens was extremely interesting.

            In 1979, when our family was stationed in Italy with the U.S. Air Force, we visited Pompeii and Wayne was allowed, for a small fee, into a room where scenes of intercourse filled the walls.

            Our guide said all women, including Carla and her sister, were considered too sensitive to see such scenes.

            On the door of the Union Station gallery a warning was placed, telling families about what they were about to see and suggesting children should not be allowed in. Carla laughed that now women were allowed — another glass-ceiling broken.

            We enjoyed the “frozen in time” exhibits at both Union Station and in Pompeii, where 2.6 million people visit every year to see one of Italy’s main attractions.


Carla Anderson stands in front of a mosaic from Pompeii

A wall sized street scene from present day Pompeii