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 HERCULANEUM - For years I've wanted to climb that infamously famous volcano Mount Vesuvius. Kept putting it off waiting for the next tomorrow. Finally today, Saturday, I just jumped in the car and took off from Avellino to find how to get to the crater rim. I had no idea since I never really checked into it. I first approached Vesuvius from the north side at Somma Vesuviana. But that road took me only as far up as a very small village called S.M. di Castello, a good ways from the top yet. I asked an elder gentleman who stood by the roadside. He responded in a very warm and polite manner saying that the only way up was at Herculaneum which is located at the southwest base. So, I drove around to Herculaneum and started finding my way up. I was thinking that if this road takes me all the way up to the rim it would be a piece of cake. But, as life would have it, luck isn't a perfect thing either.
After several miles of esses and esses I arrived at the Vesuvius Observatory. I thought this might be the top of the crater. After visiting the observatory and chatting with the resident geologist I discovered that I would have to keep driving on higher as the observatory is located below the rim.

So, up, up and away. Esses and esses and esses all the livelong day. Finally there was a parking area with attendants. I asked if I would be able to drive up to the crater. The young man looked at me like I was nuts and said courteously, "No, sir. You'll need to park here and walk up the rest of the way."
I got out of the car and looked up the sheer side of the mountain. There was a zig-zag path climbing at a high angle as far as the eye could see. "Oh, my God!" I thought to myself. The impression took me back to the my Fuji trek. The last lap was the most defining phase of the event.
Well, I'm here and here is that volcano and I came to go up it. The first few steps up the path were downright painful and took my breath away. I would stop about every ten feet and gasp for breath. I would also reason to myself that perhaps I should just return to the car and come back another day. Again, I knew I'd probably never come back. Why not just take my time and keep climbing to get it over with? That I did, and it worked out. I managed to reach the edge of the rim and explore completely around it. There were a few German tourists also climbing.

Vesuvius is the only active volcano in continental Europe and probably the most studied. It is located in the Campagnia region of southern Italy near the Gulf of Salerno. It rises to an altitude of 1282 meters (almost 4,000 feet.) There is a continuing and well-documented history of volcanic events.

It wasn't a matter of just Pompeii and Herculaneum. In fact, in 2002, while the foundation for a new supermarket was being laid, a Bronze Age settlement was discovered near Nola that was buried by Vesuvius eruptions almost 1,000 years prior to the Pompeii event. Remains of different huts emerged and many ceramic artifacts were uncovered. The village of Via Polveriera was sealed by a Vesuvius eruption that occurred during the Bronze Age, between the XIX and the XVII century B.C. Excavations uncovered three large huts oriented in NW-SE azimuths, at the edge of an area where an immense urn, some ovens, a clay and wood cage in which 9 goat skeletons were found, all pregnant. There was a stable-like structure where other animals were housed, as indicated by the hoof imprints in the ground.  

This was a unique archaeological find particularly because a thick deposit of muddy ash covered and sealed the settlement as it stood, literally cementing it all together in place. The huts were in the shape of horseshoes with an opening at the center of one of the long sides and built of wooden poles. The inside was divided into two spaces. The largest hut measured 15,60 x 4,60 m with a height of 4,40 m. The other two huts are slightly smaller.

More than 200 pots were found, some of which still contained food. Also in hut no. 4, plates, cups, and pots were found, one of which was still on the threshold.


© Copyright 2006 Raul Botello Jr.