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Pompeii-mania in schools down under

By Louise Pryke

Each year around 11,000 teenagers in the Australian state of New South Wales study the archaeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum as a compulsory topic in the senior school subject of Ancient History. Students examine written and archaeological evidence of the everyday lives of ancient people, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, and how the sites were rediscovered and excavated. Most importantly, they learn to critically examine ethical issues relating to the conservation, reconstruction and interpretation of Pompeii and Herculaneum and how they affect tourism and heritage management in Italy today.

The topic has become so popular that it can best be described as a ‘Pompeii-mania’ which has spawned a thriving ‘industry’ of conferences, textbooks, university courses and even school trips to Italy. In this paper Louise explains how ‘Pompeii-mania’ developed, its impact on teachers and students, and provide evidence of its influence on students’ choices of university subject.

Read the full paper here

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Louise Pryke

Dr Pryke is a Lecturer for the Languages and Literature of Ancient Israel. She received a B.A. with Honours in Ancient History from the University of Sydney, and a Ph.D. from the University of Sydney. Her PhD explored the vassal correspondences in the Amarna Letters (a diplomatic correspondence between New Kingdom Pharaohs and their representatives in the Levant). Dr Pryke was the recipient of an Australian Postgraduate Award scholarship between 2007-2010. She is an Honorary Associate of the Department of Classics and Ancient History and the Department of Hebrew Biblical and Jewish Studies at the University of Sydney. Dr Pryke has taught courses on Biblical Poetic Books, Biblical Prophetic Texts, Apocalyptic Literature, Wisdom Books, Greek and Roman Myth, Ancient Greek Religion and Historiography. In 2011 she was awarded the Dean's Citation for Excellence in Tutorial Teaching. Dr Pryke is committed to using her research skills for outreach. In 2015, Dr Pryke worked as a Volunteer Exhibition Researcher at the Sydney Jewish Museum, for the upcoming Holocaust Exhibition. She has also volunteered with Sydney University's Nicholson Museum and Art Gallery.