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Herculaneum and the House of the Bicentenary: History and Heritage

Sarah Court and Leslie Rainer

This volume vividly recounts, for general readers, the Roman town of Herculaneum, destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE and uniquely preserved for nearly two thousand years. Initial chapters offer an engaging historical overview of the town during antiquity, including the riveting story of its rediscovery in the eighteenth century, excavation in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and broad cultural significance in modern times.

Subsequent chapters offer an interpretive tour of the ancient town, then focus on one of Herculaneum’s grandest and most beautifully decorated private residences, known as the House of the Bicentenary. Located on the town’s main street, it has a range of features—original rooms, magnificent wall paintings and mosaics, and remarkable documents—that illuminate daily life in the ancient world. Final chapters bring the story up to date, including recent discoveries about the site and its famous papyrus manuscripts, as well as ongoing conservation initiatives.

Sarah Court is an archaeologist at the Herculaneum Conservation Project. Leslie Rainer is a senior project specialist at the Getty Conservation Institute and coauthor of Palace Sculptures of Abomey: History Told on Walls (Getty Publications, 1999).

“A fascinating read with ample information that covers a wide spectrum of subjects related to the ancient town, from the conservation of its remains and the different styles of Roman wall-painting to the history of the region from prehistory to the present and the way that politics interfered with Herculaneum's rediscovery and excavation.”
—Christina Aamodt, Ancient West & East

—The Herculaneum Society

“The text is engagingly written and masterfully structured, starting with the broad strokes of time and place, zeroing in to focus on a single grand house, the House of the Bicentenary, and then easing out again to consider and convey the urgency of conservation initiatives for the site and, implicitly, for archaeology writ large. . . . Highly recommended.”
—P. J. E. Davies, Choice

“The authors breathe life into the ancient town, its shops, and its public baths. Full of gorgeous photos, helpful plans, and archival images, this abundantly illustrated book is a fantastic, accessible, and up-to-date overview of Herculaneum, its long history, and importantly, its conservation.”
—Lucia Marchini, Minerva

"A vivid and deeply interesting read. . . . It’s visual, yet rich in content, and I’d recommend it to anyone with even a pinch of interest in Herculaneum or open-air heritage sites for that matter.”
—Jenny Mathiasson, The C Word Podcast

“This beautifully presented book by Court and Rainer illustrates the cultural value of the ancient town of Herculaneum while at the same time shining a light on the challenges and triumphs of the archaeologists and conservators who work to preserve it.”
—Dr. Joanne Berry, Associate Professor, Department of Classics, Ancient History & Egyptology, Swansea University

“Ambitious. . . . Upon first reading, one cannot help but be impressed by the accessibility of the text, which is well supported by excellent photographs and illustrations. . . . A good addition to a recommended reading list for beginning students of archaeology, conservation, and classical studies yet also presents an interesting read for a professional conservator.”
—Dr. Alaina Schmisseur, ICON News

“Lavish colour illustrations.” 
Art and Archaeology

“Well written, well edited, insightful, and enjoyable to read. . . . The publication is a strong contributor to helping elucidate and fortify the future preservation of Herculaneum.”
—Katharine Untch, News in Conservation

“With its lavish colour illustrations and thematic structure, the book’s objective lies in ‘presenting conservation and cultural heritage to a broad readership’ (168). Particularly compelling is the discussion of how the Herculaneum Conservation Project, with support from the Packard Humanities Institute, has transformed the Archaeological Park of Herculaneum; there is due emphasis, too, on more recent partnerships with the Getty Conservation Institute, above all in restoring and preserving the frescoes of the House of the Bicentenary.”
—Michael Squire, Greece & Rome

176 pages
8 x 10 inches
141 color and 19 b/w illustrations, 3 maps
ISBN 978-1-60606-628-7

Getty Publications
Imprint: Getty Conservation Institute
Series: Conservation and Cultural Heritage