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Out of the Ashes: Recovering the Lost Library of Herculaneum

Produced by: Julie Walker, University Communications
Media: DVD
Length: N/A
Item #: UC002
Price: $24.95

When the eruption of Mount Vesuvius buried the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 A.D., it not only froze an ancient civilization, it also preserved the only surviving library from antiquity.

For 250 years, scholars have struggled to unroll and read a collection of 1,800 carbonized and crumbling papyrus scrolls found in the wealthy Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum. In the 21st century, promising new multi-spectral imaging technologies--enlisted by the National Library in Naples and Brigham Young University--reveal text that has not been seen for 2,000 years.

As archaeologists examine the partially excavated Villa of the Papyri, a new question emerges: Is there another library still buried at Herculaneum?

A KBYU documentary production, Out of the Ashes traces the history of the Herculaneum papyri from the time of the eruption, to their discovery in 1752, to modern developments that impact their study. An international team of experts provides perspective on this ancient library and its importance to scholars.

The program features the work of The BYU Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts (ISPART) and four BYU scholars: Roger Macfarlane of the Department of Classics, Steve Booras and Daniel Oswald of ISPART, and Doug Chabries of the College of Engineering and Technology. It also features scholars from the University of Naples, Oxford, UCLA, Michigan, Texas A&M, Baylor, the Getty Research Institute and the British School of Rome.

Out of the Ashes includes rare footage inside the partially excavated Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum, where the scrolls were all found in the 18th century. Hundreds of works of fine sculpture were also unearthed at the villa, which was owned by Julius Caesar's father-in-law. The program also includes a description of the J. Paul Getty Villa in Malibu, Calif., which was based on the floor-plan drawings of the original Villa of the Papyri.

Ironically, the destructive force of the volcanic eruption that buried Pompeii and Herculaneum preserved this collection of papyri; the library probably would have deteriorated if it hadn't been carbonized and sealed under volcanic material.

�I am a friend of Vesuvius,� says Marcello Gigante, a former University of Naples professor and the foremost scholar on the papyri, �because Vesuvius with the eruption of 79 A.D. has conserved these papyri.�

Includes version in Italian.

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