He hid the basket in a stairwell in some public baths on the outskirts
of the city before being overcome by fumes.
Archaeologists checking on the building of a new motorway near Pompeii
dug it up, next to the man's skeleton.
The wicker basket and its contents were congealed into a solid block.
Working with the latest archaeological techniques, including x-ray,
experts have managed to separate the silverware, remove the heavy
encrustations of the eruption and salvage them.
The remains of the basket are currently being treated with chemicals
to preserve the vegetable fibre and are also expected to be put on show
The solid silver plates and goblets - all beautifully polished - were
brought to Rome under heavy security guard for a private viewing. Together
they weigh more than 4kg (9lbs).
I saw two exquisitely engraved wine cups, a set of small dishes, a
large serving plate with an elaborately chased border, a spoon, plus some
tiny, finely worked silver trays for appetisers.
Two other similar and larger hoards of table silver excavated in
Pompeii during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are on show in the
Louvre museum in Paris and at the National Archaeological Museum in
Naples. But no new treasure trove of this quality from Pompeii has been
seen for more than seventy years.
It will be put on show at the Naples museum during 2006.