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14 Bizarre Things Most People Don’t Know About The Bodies Preserved At Pompeii

In 79 CE, volcanic Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried Pompeii, Italy. Hidden from the world beneath pumice and ash, it was all but forgotten for nearly 1,500 years. But that changed in 1738 when excavation workers discovered the site preserved beneath dust and debris.

In 1860, Italian archeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli took charge of the site and began a proper excavation. Fiorelli recognized the soft ashes on the site were actually cavities left from the dead, and he is responsible for filling them with high-grade plaster. Thus, the preserved bodies of Pompeii were born. Nearly 150 years later, modern science revealed strange facts about the bodies thanks to CT scans. New archaeological discoveries like this are constantly refining our beliefs about the ancient world.

Among the many things most folks don’t know about Pompeii is that the bodies themselves, more than almost any other existing artifacts, provide archeologists with vital information about what life was like in the ancient city. Take a look at these little-known Pompeii facts.

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Scientists Used A Special Type Of CT Scan To See Through The Plaster

Although the 19th-century plaster casts helped to preserve the bodies, they also made it really difficult to access and study the skeletons inside them. In order to look inside the victims’ bodies, an archeological team used a 16-layer CT scan machine, designed for people with implants and prosthetics.

Photo: Dave & Margie Hill / Kleerup/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 2.0

In order to interpret the images produced by the complex scanner, a team of orthodontists, radiologists, computer engineers, and archeologists worked together on the project.


The Bodies Might Show The Social Hierarchy Of Pompeii

There’s one group of skeletons from Pompeii that’s especially intriguing to modern researchers. It’s a group of 54 bodies found in the basement storeroom of an agricultural depot. Although the victims hunkered down together in the space, they also arranged themselves along clearly divided lines.

On one side of the room, the bodies were loaded with gold, jewels, and other signs of wealth. On the other, the people had no possessions.

Photo: WolfgangRieger/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Although scientists aren’t certain about what this means, there are several possible explanations for the arrangement. Some people could’ve picked up their possessions and tried to run from the disaster. Or maybe half of the people in the room were criminals who stole things on their way to hide. But it’s also possible the people arranged themselves according to social status.

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