Pompeii today

What does the present reveal about the past?

Activity 1: Tour guide presentation

You have just been successful in gaining a position as a tour guide with a well-known company specialising in tours of the ancient Pompeii city site.

Your first task is to get to know the ancient site well enough to make an introductory presentation to your tour group. Follow these steps to make sure you are ready.


  1. View the image gallery from a tourist's perspective. Write the questions a tourist may ask a tour guide about each image.
  2. Each tour guide must be knowledgeable about the whole site, but each guide will also become an expert on one particular topic.
  3. Form five groups of tour guides, then choose one of the following topics in which your group will become an expert:
    - town planning focussing on water
    - religion – the god Apollo
    - art – frescoes and mosaics
    - public buildings – the theatre, basilica and the palestra
    - private houses
  4. In your expert groups, study the images relevant to your topic in the image gallery. You will be using these images in your presentation to the tour group. Add to the questions generated by the group for each image during the first viewing. Tourists are bound to ask these kinds of questions and you will have to have answers!
  5. Conduct some research to attempt to answer the questions.


  1. Form into new teams with at least one expert on each topic in each team. In your team, prepare a presentation on Pompeii to the tour group as an orientation prior to their visiting the site. Use images from the image gallery to illustrate your presentation.

Activity 2: Pompeii debate

If you want to explore further, consider the question currently being debated by authorities in Italy: Should Pompeii be closed to tourists and/or archaeologists?


Now that you have conducted several tours (See Activity 1: Pompeii tour guide presentation), you can see that Pompeii is a popular destination for tourists and archaeologists in Italy. That's not surprising since it's one of the best-preserved archaeological sites in the world.

You have just heard that the organisation responsible for the preservation of Pompeii – Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei – is considering a halt to all excavation work to preserve the remains of the ancient city still buried under metres of volcanic ash. There has even been a suggestion that the ancient city be closed and preserved for future generations to study and uncover.

What do you think?


  1. As you guide your group around the site, you have been thinking about this and you begin to discuss it with your fellow tour guides. Here are some of the questions you ask:
    - What are the greatest risks to the preservation of Pompeii?
    - What has been learned through the excavation of Pompeii?
    - Do we already know enough or is there more to learn?
  2. You decide to find out more about how archaeological work in Pompeii has been conducted. You are also interested to know what has been learned about life in ancient Pompeii from this work, and what is at risk if excavations continue. You do some research on the Internet using the following sites:
    Interactive Dig Pompeii - Field Notes: August 7, 2001
    Pompeii: Its Discovery and Preservation 
    Masonry Damage Modes at Pompeii 
    Excavations under the Bourbons between 1748 and 1815
  3. You also decide that it's a good idea to ask the experts. Whose advice will you require? Look at the team on this site: Field Observations, Summer 1997.
  4. How would the advice of the team members differ? Think about what expertise they bring to the task.


  1. Discuss with your friends the question: Should Pompeii be closed to tourists and/or archaeologists? Make a chart to record arguments for and against.
  2. You and your colleagues decide to present your argument in the form of a letter to Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompeii with all the evidence you have collected.

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