The remains of the Roman city of Pompeii are one of the world’s great archaeological sites – a priceless snapshot of daily life in AD79, preserved forever by the terrifying eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

As such, its treasures are closely guarded. If you want to see the glories of this once fine city – its mosaics, statues, frescos, jewellery and art – you have to travel either to its still only partially excavated remains, or to the treasure house of the National Archaeological Museum in nearby Naples.

Or at least, you would have done, until now.

This summer, Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum is hosting a mind-blowing exhibition featuring some of the very finest pieces of art, and most revealing artifacts, from Pompeii and related sites in a blockbuster show which ranks among the most important in the museum’s history.

The show, Last Supper in Pompeii tells the story of life in the former resort city through the prism of food and drink; the stuff of life.

Items range from the everyday – charred remains of fruit, bread and grains – to the monumental – a glowing almost translucent, and perfectly proportioned, sculpted marble statue of Bacchus, god of wine, which is almost too beautiful to bear.

Read more: Was this silver rabbit really worth £71m?

More than just an archaeological show, it is both a narrative journey through Roman life and a view of the world through Roman eyes.

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What is remarkable, given their age and the means of Pompeii’s violent and filthy destruction (involving surges of superheated pyroclastic rock and choking dust) is the perfection of much on show.

Mosaics, such as a subtly coloured tableau of seafood (a virtual menu of ‘frutti di mare’ with a writhing octopus at its centre) and a cheery monochrome skeleton bearing pitchers of wine which once graced a family dining room, look like they could have been made yesterday, such is their rich patina, expert craftsmanship and almost contemporary design.

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Both mosaics are among the key attractions of the Naples National Archaeological Museum. That they, and other priceless artifacts from the Pompeii Archaeological Park, the Greek colony of Paestum on the Tyrrhenian Sea, and Villa Oplontis (including the haunting resin lady – the only human cast able to travel – are here at all is testament to the reputation of the Ashmolean as a cultural beacon of global standing, to the sheer hard work of Dr Paul Roberts, the museum’s Keeper of the Department of Antiquities who made it happen, and the generosity of those charged with preserving Pompeii’s legacy – such as Dr Maria Lucia Giacco from Naples Museum of Archaeology and Greta Stefani, Director of Pompeii.

Read more: From Napoli with love: A delicious taste of Pompeii at the Ashmolean

If you see only one show this year – make it this one. There will never be another chance.

WHERE: Last Supper in Pompeii is at the Ashmolean Museum, Beaumont Street, Oxford until January 12.

Book tickets at Full price tickets are £12.25. concessionary tickets are available

DON’T MISS: The resin lady is the cast of a wealthy woman of Pompeii. She is the only cast of a victim of the disaster able to travel. A poignant reminder of the human tragedy of the eruption.

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