**Vignette 15: Write from the perspective of an archeologist unearthing the remains of Pompeii. How might it feel to discover these ruins? **
I wiped the sweat away from my eyes, the sun beat down on my head. How could the sun be so inconsiderate? I had been climbing for probably close to three hours and that stupid star just kept burning, heating my hair so much that I wished that I wore one of those stupid tiny umbrella hats.
As my glasses began to slip from the sweat behind my ears, I saw it, and they fell into the dirt next to my feet. I didn't take the time to wipe them off before I put them back on. What I saw nearly made me scream.
I guess I didn't know fully what to expect, I had read the articles and studies by others, looked at all the pictures for probably too long, getting super nerdy over history. I knew what I would see, and I thought that I was prepared, but actually seeing it was... terrifying.
The open mouths, arms out in front of faces, trying to stop the onslaught of hot ash that tore at skin. These people were not just preserved by this ash, they were seared by it, tortured by it. The ash did not preserve them, it took them as prisoners of its conquest.
This city was not owned by its people anymore, nor was it truly owned by any person. I know this because of the dust attacking my lungs. Nature had taken its territory back from these people. Forces of nature were more real (and probably more powerful) than the gods that the people of Pompeii had worshipped. Nature has no consideration for the life that it has created. It demands to be felt, to be paid attention to, it's like a teenage girl, only it can hurt people over a larger area.
After the initial startling effect wore off, I realized that what was spread out before my eyes at the excavation site was a gruesome and morbid time capsule. The destroying ash had perfectly preserved the ancient city and its people, just as it had been, minutes after the eruption. And there were parts that were yet to be revealed - mysteries of private lives that I and my fellow archeologists were to discover. Though I was, as always before a dig, excited at the prospect of the secrets about to be unearthed, here at Pompeii there was something slightly holding me back. I was not simply excavating tombs of old kings - I was, in a sense, intruding on the personal lives of individuals who had never thought to be so molested. Kings prepare tombs with the hope of someone seeing them - whether that be the gods of their religion, or an archeologist years into the future. The citizens of Pompeii had no such ambition.
As I walked into the site, along the crumbling large cobblestone of the streets, toward the yet unexplored area of the ruins, I gazed up at the looming Vesuvius, and felt a tinge of fear. The smoke, the flames, the heat, the ash - I could imagine it all, coming in a deathly cloud, claiming everyone in its path. If you were a poor citizen in the center of the town, there would have been no escape, and you would probably have guessed it. What must it have been like to be staring down inevitable death in such a way?
I shook my head to dispell the horrifying vision. Although the volcano was still active, with its most recent eruption in 1944, we now had enough technology to determine when the next eruption would be, and to know to clear out fast enough if it should choose to blow. We would be prepared. Those buried beneath the ashes hadn't been.
Pillars from temples halted abruptly at odd angles as they stretched towards the cloudless sky like a hundred jagged fingers. It was no hard task to envision the glory that had been so many years ago. The corpses we would be uncovering had once walked with lively steps through the same forum in which I now stood, and haggled in the marketplace beyond, of which was left no more than a barren square. If I died now, I pondered, would I have wished to have my body exhumed, years after, and studied as a specimen? It was a kind of invasion of privacy.
The more I thought about it, gazing at the surrounding ruins, the more I decided that it was, mildly, a pleasing thought to be able to contribute to the learning of history by being a scientific specimen. And so, as I smiled and walked down to my collegues working in the excavation site, I hoped that those whose secrets we were about to discover wouldn't mind too much. They, though unknowing and unhearing, were about to become a part of history.
I climbed back up the hill to my accidental discovery, realizing no one had seen this part of the necropolis. The partially uncovered remains lay at the top of a windy hill, and ash and sand cascaded down the side into pockets of black in the green hillside. It was far from the official excavation site.
Looking at the mummified bodies, I thought of the thousands of tourists who, with their feet and their hands, added to the destruction Vesuvius poured on Pompeii.
I faced the modern day ethical dilemma; to tell my colleagues and the Italian Culture Ministry of the new discovery or to keep it secret. Through the work of grave robbers and archeologists, ancient and modern, much of the unearthed city lay bare to weather, thieves, and tourists with their money and donations for restoration. As an archeologist, I am a professional grave robber. I should start the process of uncovering and excavating and looting to give the world the newest horrified skeletal expressions of the necropolis and gold jewelry to grace the museums of the world.
Or, I thought, I could leave the deceased in their sacred grave.
Many of the world’s experts had already agreed to withdraw, but I now possessed the power to be famous, or I possessed the power to be respectful.
I pulled the folding field shovel out of my backpack and concealed the horrified remains with ash from the hillside. Some cuttings of green, grassy turf made a wind-proof cap along the top of the grave.
The mountain’s presence loomed over my finished work. I straightened to stare at the gaping, rocky face. These ancient, doomed people worshiped the gods of the mountain; made sacrifices to the mountain. The mountain answered with its nature; the natural Vesuvius.