One of the most famous aspects of Pompeii is the snapshot image left behind by the wrath of Mount Vesuvius. In an instant, men, women and children were essentially frozen solid. You wouldn’t be wrong for thinking that Medusa herself had paid the ancient city a visit. There are a number of ways one could die by being nearby to a volcanic eruption: you could suffocate, you could get hit by debris, or the shockwave itself could kill you. Until fairly recently, it was assumed that asphyxiation had been the cause of death for those unfortunate souls of Pompeii. Now, new evidence suggests that the extreme heat had caused their demise. Let’s take a look through some of the Pompeii bodies discovered at Pompeii and see what stories they tell.
For those of you planning a visit; know that the Pompeii bodies are not something for the faint of heart to view. There are men, women, children and even dogs. All displaying their final moments of life in an immortal pose. This dark realisation also happens to be what makes the bodies of Pompeii so incredibly fascinating. Before we get into that, let’s take a moment to look at how these stone-like beings are created. You see, the displays of these ancient people aren’t how they were discovered. The final form is a sort of replication which is made using an outer-layer of ash that has formed around the corpses. Allowing them to be preserved in the form that you see the Pompeii bodies in today. To know what happened, we’ll have to take a step back to 79AD: the time of Mount Vesuvius’s destructive eruption.
Described as being more powerful than an atomic blast; Vesuvius erupted and instantaneously wiped out the nearby city of Pompeii. Several waves of incredibly hot ash washed down to the coast, coating its victims in the cocoon that would ultimately preserve them until modern times. Many describe the bodies as being a form of mummification. This layer of ash kept the shape of the bodies while what was inside began to rot. Upon exploration of the ruins in the 1700s, it was discovered that the ash-layer held everything left inside in place. So by pouring a mould material into the spaces, moulds could be made of the victims: creating the infamous Pompeii bodies. With each new body discovered, new clues are discovered to what life was like in Ancient Pompeii. So far there have been 1000 casts made from the remains of Vesuvius’s victims.
Some of these harrowing scenes send a chill down your spine. It’s difficult to look at a baby who has been frozen in its death position for nearly 2000 years. Some of the eeriest sights are the ones where you can see people crawling. While there are no eyeballs or muscles, you can almost feel the expression that would have been on their faces. Almost feel the desperation of human life as the fight or flight response kicks in at the moment of a gigantic explosion. Of course not all of these scenes will create the same reaction. For example, one of the Pompeii bodies seems to display a man who died mid-masturbation. Whether this is genuinely the case or just the dirty mind of the internet users who made it go viral, is still to open to interpretation.
While new bodies are still being excavated, no new plaster casts are being made. Why? The technique helps preserve the snapshot of what this individual was doing back in 79AD but also has downsides. The remains (mostly bones) on the inside are usually damaged or become too difficult to detect with scans. This stops further research into the health of the individuals prior to their death. An interesting example of why this is important can be seen by a recent discovery by scientists. It was found that despite it being 79AD, some of the inhabitants of Pompeii had perfect teeth. As of yet, no toothbrushes have been found. The healthy chompers of the people of Pompeii is believed to be due to other factors: mainly a healthy diet and due to the air and water in the area containing high levels of fluorine.
Pompeii Bodies: The Story Behind the Casts
I hope you have found this article interesting. We’ve covered some of the interesting facts related to the casts of Pompeii’s excavated bodies. Hopefully you’ve learnt something new that you didn’t already new. Visiting Pompeii is an incredible experience and it’s really unlike any other tourist spot on Earth. Being able to witness the harsh reality of history in such a visual manner is incredible. Standing in the shadow of Vesuvius while you look at the bodies leftover from the lives it took nearly 2000 years ago is chilling!
If you’re visiting Pompeii or are perhaps just considering, then head on over to our Ultimate Guide For Visiting Pompeii . Here you will find information related to ticket prices, opening times and much more. Also, be sure to download the Discover Pompeii app to have access to maps, 6+ hours of audio guides and much, much more.