I am currently reading a book called “Four Lost Cities” by Annalee Newitz, a New York Times writer who explored Catalyöyük that existed from 7500 to 5700 BCE in what is now Turkey, Pompeii in Italy, Angkor in Cambodia and Cahokia, Il. I have visited two of these four excavations, Pompeii and Angkor, and found them amazing. As I wrote about in Wandering the World in my chapter on Archeology, I am fascinated by ancient cities and architecture, the older it is the more intriguing I find it.
The excavations at Pompeii are incredible because the city was buried in ash from Vesuvius in one day in the year 79 CE, preserving everything intact. Some people were able to escape, but many were buried or asphyxiated trying to, and many were suddenly buried at whatever they were doing. Over 2000 years, the bodies decomposed, leaving cavities in the hardened ash that an archeologist filled with plaster, creating plaster casts of the dead as they lay. The buildings are so intact that many of the wealthy homes still have the mosaics on the floors and frescos on the walls. Newitz describes the buildings and lives of the residents in more detail, determined from the careful study by all the archeologists over the last century and a contemporary document from ancient Rome. It is great to read about these amazing places but being there and walking the old stone streets makes one experience the lives and deaths of real people.
Now I need to visit Cahokia, Illinois the site of one of the other “lost cities”. So near and yet so long ago!
“One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller