A Drone’s Eye View of the Ruins of Pompeii

The bet­ter part of two mil­len­nia after its entomb­ment in ash and pumice by Mount Vesu­vius, Pom­peii ranks as one of Italy’s most pop­u­lar tourist attrac­tions. Ancient-his­to­ry buffs who vis­it its well-pre­served ruins today will find plen­ty to occu­py their time and atten­tion, but they won’t be able to see as much as they used to: less than a third of the Pom­peii acces­si­ble to tourists fifty years ago remains so today. But thanks to tech­nol­o­gy, entire­ly new views of Pom­peii have also opened up. Cam­era drones, which now seem to get lighter, more agile, and clear­er-sight­ed every day, pro­vide a per­spec­tive on Pom­peii that no vis­i­tor has ever enjoyed before, regard­less of their lev­el of access.

The video at the top of the post takes a quick flight down one of Pom­pei­i’s streets, which at first looks like noth­ing more than a faster, smoother ver­sion of the expe­ri­ence avail­able to any vis­i­tor to the ruined Roman city. But then the per­spec­tive changes in a way it can only in a drone-shot video, reveal­ing the sheer scale of Pom­peii as does no pos­si­ble vista from the ground.

The video just below, which runs near­ly six and a half min­utes, offers an even more unusu­al, dra­mat­ic, and reveal­ing view of Pom­peii, chas­ing a dog down its emp­ty stone streets, gaz­ing straight down onto the walls of its many roof­less build­ings, fly­ing between its still-stand­ing columns and pil­lars, and even fol­low­ing a drone — pre­sum­ably with anoth­er drone — as it nav­i­gates the enor­mous archae­o­log­i­cal site.

These drone’s-eye-views may well spark in their view­ers a desire to vis­it Pom­peii that had nev­er exist­ed before, or even renew a pre­vi­ous­ly exist­ing desire to do so that has gone dor­mant. To archae­ol­o­gists, how­ev­er, Pom­peii has nev­er lost its fas­ci­na­tion: researchers con­tin­ue to dis­cov­er new arti­facts there, and just this year found the remains of a child, a horse, and a flee­ing cit­i­zen crushed under a boul­der. With each new piece of Pom­peii unearthed, we learn more about how our pre­de­ces­sors once lived. Com­bined with the kind of drone footage that has already giv­en us a thrilling new under­stand­ing of liv­ing cities around the world (and even mod­ern-day Pom­pei­is like Cher­nobyl) we come ever clos­er to a full pic­ture of human his­to­ry — and to the irre­sistible, if grim, ques­tion of what sort of unimag­in­able tech­nol­o­gy humans of the future will use to explore the ruins of the metrop­o­lis­es we live in today.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch the Destruc­tion of Pom­peii by Mount Vesu­vius, Re-Cre­at­ed with Com­put­er Ani­ma­tion (79 AD)

Vis­it Pom­peii (also Stone­henge & Ver­sailles) with Google Street View

Rome Reborn: Take a Vir­tu­al Tour Through Ancient Rome, 320 C.E.

The His­to­ry of Rome in 179 Pod­casts

A Haunt­ing Drone’s‑Eye View of Cher­nobyl

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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