Sunday, February 09, 2020

Review of Lapatin (ed.), Buried by Vesuvius: The Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Kenneth Lapatin (ed.), Buried by Vesuvius: The Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2019. Pp. ix, 276. ISBN 9781606065921. $65.00. Reviewed by Nancy H. Ramage, Ithaca College (
This is a book with multiple authors on numerous topics, all shedding light on different aspects of the celebrated Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum and its contents. Published by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, it accompanied an exhibition on the same topic, entitled “Buried by Vesuvius: Treasures from the Villa dei Papiri” (June 26 to October 28, 2019). Sumptuously illustrated on nearly every page, it brings to life many lesser-known works as well as the old chestnuts. The book is dedicated to the memory of Benedicte Gilman, a much-revered editor of Getty books who died as the book was going to press.

The Herculaneum papyri are not (yet) directly relevant to ancient Judaism. But the Villa of the Papyri is, like the Dead Sea Scrolls, an ancient library discovered on site. And the technological challenges for reading the carbonized papyri are leading to solutions with wide applications for deciphering poorly preserved ancient literature. Background here and many links (cf. here and links on the recovery of the text on the charred Leviticus scroll from Ein Gedi).

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