Pompeii exhibit comes to Arizona Science Center

The task of showing off history is not one that can be taken lightly.

"It becomes an excruciating process as the teams are packing and unpacking," Sari Custer said.

Items that are thousands of years old are amazingly preserved and even familiar medical tools from the ancient city of Pompeii are just some of the more than 200 artifacts that will soon be on display at the Arizona Science Center.

All of them are carefully boxed up and protected, and one of them is particularly large and impressive.

"It's a giant statue of a former emperor that was in the city on public display," Custer said.

Caligula, all 2,900 pounds of him, with every detail carved out of marble.

"It took my breathe away, I actually said out loud, 'Wow,'" Custer said.

To impress Sari Custer, the vice president of curiosity, it takes something this magnificent and all perfectly reserved in a historic catastrophe.

"There was a community living by a volcano and they didn't realize what was happening," Custer said. "There were earthquakes and it led up to this massive eruption that ended up covering the city and some people escaped and some people didn't."

Those people couldn't survive, their bodies were entombed in ash and centuries later, excavators working through the city found the shapes of their bodies underneath all the wreckage.

Some of the casts are now here in Phoenix.

"Very powerful... the emotion people conveyed in their last moments," Custer said.

It's a tragedy that froze time in a Roman city bustling with life.

What's left helps us better understand the empires that shaped our world.