Herculaneum was a smaller town with a wealthier population than Pompeii at the time of the destruction by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, though Pompeii is the most famous. Vesuvius started erupting on August 24, AD 79, and buried them in superheated pyroclastic material that has solidified into volcanic tuff. The volcanic water, ash and debris covering Herculaneum, along with the extreme heat, left it in a remarkable state of preservation for over 1600 years. Infact, it is the source of the first Roman skeletal and physical remains available for study that were located by science, for the Romans almost universally cremated their dead.
A large part of the buildings remain several stories high: the House of Argus still has its wooden balcony; the House of Relief of Telephus is distinguished by its refined marble decorations; the House of Neptune and Amphitrite have beautiful mosaics; the House of the Deer has sumptuous rooms and the superb Villa of the Papyri is famous for its sculptures, now on view in the Archaeological Museum of Naples and its library of philosophical texts. Today excavations have been temporarily discontinued, in order to direct all funding to help save the city.