Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/250

This page has been validated.

shattered by the earthquake, and pouring their contents into the valley. By degrees, as the mud settled in the streets, the courts, rooms, and dwellings, the level of the water rose, new deposits gathered; the ashes falling in dense masses from the sky, grew saturated, and increased the rising heaps. Thus, in a few days, perhaps a few hours, a flourishing city was swallowed up, under an average thickness of sixty feet of mud. Those of the inhabitants who did not take flight at once, were drowned. In vain they climbed to the upper stories, then to the terraces and roofs—they perished at last, leaving the impressions of their bodies in the fluid ashes.

When the waters had drained away, nothing was to be seen but a grayish hillock, seamed on the surface by the streamlets which had been the last to dry up. Nothing rose above the surface, neither temple-facades, nor theatre-walls, nor tops of the loftiest buildings. Under a shell which would harden and thicken every day, Herculaneum was buried far otherwise than Pompeii had been. It was not fifteen feet of pumice stones that filled the ground floors and first stories of the houses up to the windows; it was 70 or 80 feet of compact matter that hid even the site of the city. The inhabitants who escaped must afterward have returned, as the Pompeians did; but, less fortunate, they could not revisit their homes, buried beneath their reach in unknown depths, without a trace to indicate them. Signs of excavation are thought to have been detected outside the city, above the rich villa in which the moderns have recovered 1,756 rolls of papyrus, but the owners did not dig deep enough, and their attempt was fruitless, as is proved by the art treasures discovered a century ago, which they would not have failed to carry away. It is likely that the chief impediment to digging, next to the depth, was the moisture of an alluvial deposit, in which any work soon became impossible.

But after sixteen centuries the moisture had evaporated, and the muddy lava at this day is compact and resistant enough to permit excavations in all directions throughout it. The surface has been restored to cultivation and covered with houses; Portici and Resina are populous and flourishing towns. New eruptions wrapped Herculaneum in a thicker pall, and it seemed forever blotted out from the world, until, in 1684, a baker, in digging a well, came upon ancient ruins—those of the theatre—and brought the buried city again to light.



WE furnish our readers this month with an excellent likeness of the venerable President of the Royal Society, England, who will have a permanent and distinguished place in the history of science through his researches on terrestrial magnetism, of which he may be regarded as the pioneer explorer. He is of Irish ex-