The Naples National Archaeological Museum (MANN) is taking Pompeii to five Chinese cities starting in February for over a year.
MANN is the largest lender in the world of Pompeiian artifacts, and has taken statues, frescoes and decorations from its immense archives to loan to the Jinsha Archaeology Museum in Chengdu.
Among the 120 works and artifacts on loan is the "calidarium" from the Villa di Pisanella in Boscoreale, one of the best preserved and most complete examples of private thermal baths from ancient Roman times. A caldarium was a room with a hot plunge bath, used in a complex. This was a very hot and steamy room heated by a hypocaust, an underfloor heating system. This was the hottest room in the regular sequence of bathing rooms; after the caldarium, bathers would progress back through the tepidarium [the warm bathroom]] to the frigidarium [the cold water room].
In the caldarium, there would be a bath (alveus, piscina calida or solium) of hot water sunk into the floor and there was sometimes even a laconicum—a hot, dry area for inducing sweating. The bath's patrons would use olive oil to cleanse themselves by applying it to their bodies and using a strigil to remove the excess. This was sometimes left on the floor for the slaves to pick up or put back in the pot for the women to use for their hair.
The hot floor and water would have most likely been heated by fires which slaves underneath kept burning or from the hot air from outside. The temperature of the caldarium is not known exactly: however, since the Romans used sandals with a wooden sole, it could not be higher than 50–55 °C (122–131°F).
Also making its way to China is the famed "balneum", an extraordinary example of ancient-world hydraulic work, which has been taken apart and distributed into 14 crates for shipping. Upon its return in 2019, it will be part of the historic "technology section" that will be reopened at the MANN.
The traveling show, titled "Pompeii, The Infinite Life 2018", is part of the EU-China Tourism Year and is a project of Beijing's ChinaMuseum Ltd with the cooperation of the Italian Cultural Ministry.
MANN Director Paolo Giulierini said being involved in the project is a "great honour". "We hope it will bring many visitors both to the exhibitions as well as to our museum, considering the constant growth of Chinese tourists who are passionate about archaeology," he said. "The exhibitions will also allow for sharing on issues such as preservation, development, local promotion and technological research. In our endless archives, we have a bobbin with a silk thread that was likely produced by the Chinese. It's an unmatched object that at the moment is undergoing study and restoration. We like to think that that silk thread is a symbol that, like the one that held Theseus and Ariadne together during the feat with the Minotaur, symbolically connects the two great empires before and the two countries now, to overcome the new monster: fear of what's different".
The exhibitions will start in Chengdu during the Sun Festival, until May 3; the other stops will be Qinshihuang Mausoleum Museum (June 1-August 24), Tianjin Museum (September 21-December 14); Wuhan Museum (February-March 2019), plus a fifth museum still to be determined.
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Staff at Flashback Journey to Pompeii. Our goal is to bring you up-to-date information on events, continuing archeological excavations and more on Pompeii.