Villa of the Mysteries
Villa of the Mysteries is located just outside of ancient Pompeii, north of the Ercolano Gate (P. Ercolano, or Porta Ercolano, on the map to the left). A small part of it was excavated in 1909-1910 by the owner of the land, but the major part of the excavation and restoration took place in 1929-1930 after the government of Italy took over.
Villa of the Mysteries is one of the most remarkable private houses (where agricultural products, especially wine, were cultivated) discovered so far. It is best known for its wall paintings; they are simply stunning with their vivid colors and dramatic images (see below for a YouTube video that shows them off to their best advantage).
But a number of individuals lost their lives here as well when Vesuvius erupted. At the time of the eruption, workers were still repairing damage to the villa that had occurred in the major 62 AD earthquake.
In all, nine bodies were recovered from the villa. Room 54 (highlighted in red below) revealed the remains of three people: two women and a baby girl. Although these three individuals were only skeletons, they were identified by their jewelry: armbands, a gold and emerald necklace, and three rings. They appear to have taken refuge on an upper floor, but the roof (and attic) collapsed under the weight of the volcanic debris, sending them below. Today all of the rooms at the back of the Villa of the Mysteries (#52-60) are inaccessible to visitors, but two casts are on display.
Although records are not clear, at least one plaster cast (the first one shown below) was created from the other six remains. It is currently exhibited behind a barred and locked door in Room 32. (Thank you, Rick Bauer, for the photo.)
You can peek through the bars to see the plaster cast (one that looks as if the person arrived from Mars; the faces on a few of the casts, it should be noted, do look less than lifelike--this is one of them).
Another cast can be seen in Room 35 (enter through Room 34). (Thank you, Rick Bauer, for the two photos below.)
Of all the houses in Pompeii, the Villa of the Mysteries is one of my favorite. You might enjoy this imaginative video on YouTube to see why:
Books about the Plaster Casts of Pompeii
For Adults and Teenagers