Frozen in Time: Casts of Pompeii Reveal Last Moments of Volcano Victims

Frozen in Time: Casts of Pompeii Reveal Last Moments of Volcano Victims

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

The plaster casts of 86 agonized victims of the Mount Vesuvius eruption in 79 AD near Pompeii will go on exhibit May 26, 2015, in National Archaeological Museum of Naples, Italy.

People of Pompeii, a Roman city, were in their death throes when a cloud of gas from the volcano enveloped them, killing them. The gas was 300 degrees centigrade (572 degrees F). Clearly, from the expressions of their faces and their bodily contortions they were caught by surprise when the ash cloud finally consumed them.

An article on states :

Teeth protrude from lips stretched from pain. Smoldering, encrusted skin, protruding skulls and bones, exposed jaws were all caught in the moment of death, when a glowing, 300C cloud seared surfaces of the bodies in a single stroke, leaving their insides soft, and burying them under ash and stones. Among them is the family of the House of the Golden Bracelet: a woman with a baby on her lap. Near her is a man and another child, perhaps two years old.

Harrowing image shows a child sitting on his mother when the ash cloud hit. Credit: Splash News

The actual bodies, which were ossified by the heat, will not go on display but rather the plaster casts that show the exact position the bodies were found in.

Massimo Osanna, the superintendent of archaeology in Pompeii and nearby towns said: "Until now they had never been surveyed, out of a sense of ethics with which these human remains were always treated. No statues of plaster or bronze, but real people who should be treated with respect.”

Some of the victims of volcanic gas cloud were clearly in agony (Bigstock photo)

Archaeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli found the bodies in 1863 and came up with a way to detect and extract the bodies intact from their resting places in Pompeii. Scientists also found animals, including a dog and a pig, but they won't be on display in the museum. The animals were restored for purposes of archaeology and science, Osanna said.

A team of scientists, including archaeologists, engineers, an anthropologist, restoration experts and radiologists, is undertaking the Great Pompeii Project to do anthropological and genetic profiling of the unfortunate victims of the eruption. The scientists hope to get a better understanding of their way of life and identify them more fully. They will publish their findings and be featured in a documentary by a restoration company from Salerno.

Pompeii was a flourishing Roman city from the 6 th century BC until it became frozen in time, preserved by the layers of ash that spewed out from the great eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the 1 st century AD. Although Pompeii was initially rediscovered at the end of the 16 th century, it was only properly excavated in the 18 th century. Excavators were startled by the sexually explicit frescoes they were unearthing, quite shocking to the sensibilities of medieval citizens of Rome, so they quickly covered them over.

Raunchy frescoes uncovered in Pompeii. Source: BigStockPhoto

When excavations resumed nearly two centuries later, archaeologists found the city almost entirely intact – loaves of bread still sat in the oven, bodies of men, women, children, and pets were found frozen in their last moments, the expressions of fear still etched on their faces, and the remains of meals remained discarded on the pavement. The astounding discovery meant that researchers could piece together exactly what life was like for the ancient Romans of Pompeii – the food they ate, the jobs they performed and the houses they lived in.

The city of Pompeii (Bigstock photo)

Photos of researchers working with the bodies and making plaster casts may be viewed at The Daily Mail .

Featured image: Some of the victims of Pompeii were sitting, some lying when the superhot gas cloud enveloped them. (Bigstock photo)

By Mark Miller

Pompeii Victims

9292015 After being entombed in ash for more than 1900 years the victims of the devastating eruption in Pompeii are being brought to life using modern. 11232020 More than 150 years after the first remains of the victims of the Mount Vesuvius eruption were discovered scientists have found two more bodies in the ruins near Pompeii.

Tragedy Pompeii And Herculaneum Ancient Pompeii Pompeii

People of Pompeii a Roman city were in their death throes when a cloud of gas from the volcano enveloped them killing them.

Pompeii victims. 6102018 Until recently the primary assumption was that victims had suffered from asphyxiation resulting from the deadly volcanic gases and ash. 5102018 The bodies of Pompeii of Vesuvius had been covered in layers of fine ash that calcified over the centuries forming a type of protective shell around their bodies. To everyones great surprise Pompeii was intact with its buildings artifacts and skeletons of the victims frozen in time.

In 1748 the site of Pompeii was rediscovered by accident during construction of a palace for Charles of Bourbon. 8282017 After being buried in ash for more than 1900 years new victims of the devastating eruption in the Pompeii area have been discovered including two pregnant women and their newborn or late-term fetuses. The two individuals were.

The total number of victims found is 1150 identifiable bodies. 342019 The vast majority of people in Pompeii and Herculaneumthe cities hardest hitperished from asphyxiation choking on the thick clouds of noxious gas and ash. They determined that the surge.

5252015 The plaster casts of 86 agonized victims of the Mount Vesuvius eruption in 79 AD near Pompeii will go on exhibit May 26 2015 in National Archaeological Museum of Naples Italy. - pompeii victims stock pictures royalty-free photos. 11222020 The remains of two victims of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius almost 2000 years ago have been unearthed at a grand villa on the fringes of Pompeii.

Scientists have been able to determine causes of death and common diseases in Pompeii which include you guess it. The number of inhabitants of Pompeii during the eruption remains open for discussion in the range of approximately from 6000 to more than 20000. But a recent study by volcanologist Giuseppe Mastrolorenzo and his colleagues found that hundreds of fatalities occurred during the fourth pyroclastic surge which was the first to reach Pompeii.

Experts suggest that the new discovery could be a game-changer for Roman bioarcheology. However we must take into account that most of Pompeii still lies underground. Naples Italy - Archaelogical workers extract the mummified bodies of two adults and.

742017 A POMPEII volcano victim appeared to go out with a bang as a newly emerged photo seems to show him masturbating. 1232020 Studies reveal gruesome last moments of Pompeii volcanos victims By Colin Barras Jan. But at least some of the Vesuvian.

Surviving childhood was a feat in and of itself back then and childhood diseases often left distinguishing markers on victims and survivors alike. The preserved body belonging to one of 11000 people thought to have been killed. During the excavations in Pompeii the remains of over one thousand victims of the 79 AD eruption have been found.

8162018 Plaster casts of the victims covered in ash in Pompeii Italy. A multidisciplinary volcanological and bio-anthropological study of the eruption products and victims merged with numerical simulations and experiments indicates that at Pompeii and surrounding towns heat was the main cause of death of people previously believed to have died by ash suffocation. When the skin and tissue of these bodies eventually decayed they left voids in the layer of ash around them in the exact shape of the victims in their final moments.

The results of the study published in 2010 show that exposure to at least 250. Pompeii mould of a dead person from vesuvius eruprion victims covered in ash pompeii travel in italy. 1152010 Published November 5 2010 3 min read The famous lifelike poses of many victims at Pompeii seated with face in hands crawling kneeling on a mothers lapare helping to lead scientists toward a.

23 2020 700 AM Most of the Roman occupants of Herculaneum were doomed the moment Mount Vesuvius erupted in. 1082015 Pompeii Couple Reunited in Marble Inscription In an unprecedented investigation a team of researchers under the appointment of the Archaeological Superintendence of Pompeii Herculaneum and Stabia. The telltale markers were found on a pair of 10-year-old twin boys.

Body Cast Of Victim Of The Eruption Of Mount Vesuvius In Ce 79 Herculaneum In Contrast To Pompeii Where Casts Re Herculaneum Pompeii Bodies Ancient Pompeii

Pompeii Bodies Pompeii Bodies Pompeii Pompeii Italy

Real Body Cast From Pompeii 79 Ad Saw Museum Of Science Exhibit Yesterday Pompeii And Herculaneum Pompeii Pompeii Italy

See The Screaming Guanajuato Mummies Whose Faces Remain Frozen In Terror Pompeii Pompeii Bodies Pompeii Italy

14 Bizarre Things Most People Don T Know About The Bodies Preserved At Pompeii Pompeii Facts About Pompeii Pompeii Bodies

Reconstructing The Faces Of Pompeii Victims Ancient Pompeii Pompeii Pompeii And Herculaneum

Pompeii Bodies Lovers Pompeii Bodies Pompeii Lion Sculpture

Pompeii Italy Pompeii Pompeii Bodies Pompeii And Herculaneum

The Two Maidens Of Pompeii Are Men Pompeii Pompeii Italy Ancient Pompeii

Pin By Cheyenne Wood On History 3 Pompeii Italy Ancient Pompeii Herculaneum

Peering Inside Pompeii S Victims Scans Reveal Unprecedented Detail Pompeii Pompeii Bodies Pompeii And Herculaneum

Peering Inside Pompeii S Victims Scans Reveal Unprecedented Detail Pompeii Ancient Pompeii Pompeii History

Bodies In Pompeii 2 By Lauraotms On Deviantart Pompeii Pompeii Bodies Pompeii And Herculaneum

Plaster Cast Of Victims Pompeii Pompeii Pompeii And Herculaneum Pompeii Ruins

Pompeian Victim From The 79ad Eruption Of Mount Vesuvius Note How The Teeth Still Remain In Place This Was Due To The Volcanic Ash Pompei Archeologie Romain

Preserved Bodies From The Tragic Volcano 79ad In Pompeii Pompeii Pompeii Bodies Pompeii Italy

8 Facts Frozen In Time With The Bodies At Pompeii Pompeii Pompeii Bodies Ancient Rome Facts

Pompeii’s Preservation

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.

Preservation work on Pompeii’s frozen victims of a volcanic eruption reveal the loving last moments of a mansion’s children

THE earth shook. The air burned to 300C. A terrified little boy scrambled for the safety of his mother’s lap. Now, more than 2000 on later, he’s emerged.

A restorer works on a petrified victim of the eruption of Vesuvius volcano in 79 BC, as part of the restoration work and the study of 86 casts in the laboratory of Pompeii Archaeological Site, on May 20, 2015 in Pompeii. Picture: Mario Laporta Source:AFP

THE earth shook. The air burned. A terrified little boy scrambled for the safety of his mother’s lap. Now, more than 2000 years later, he’s finally emerged from his tragic embrace in the buried city of Pompeii.

It was 79BC when Mount Vesuvius erupted. The volcano had been restless. But some residents of the agricultural city of Pompeii below had not been frightened enough to leave their homes.

When the eruption finally came in November, the town — and its inhabitants — were suddenly swamped under a flow of superheated gas and ash.

Tragedy frozen in time . A petrified parent and child, victims of Vesuvius Volcan eruption of 79AD, undergoing conservation work inside a laboratory in Pompeii. Source: AFP Source:AFP

Estimates vary, but somewhere between 10,000 and 25,000 people were killed in the event.

The petrified remains of Pompeii’s residents — their outlines cast by the slowly solidifying ash — tell the tale of the city’s last moments.

Many were found clustered in the warehouses and docks of the port — desperately seeking space on the last remaining boats. Others were found huddled in public places and their homes.

This four-year-old boy’s story is just one of the most recent, and most poignant, to emerge.

Eternally young . Stefano Vanacore, director of the laboratory of Pompeii Archaeological Site, carries one of the petrified children. Source: AFP Source:AFP

At the height of the terror he sought solace in his mother’s lap. The remains of his father and a sibling were found, fallen, close by.

Their remains were found in what archaeologists call the House of the Golden Bracelet. It was one of the area’s more luxurious homes. Some assume this family was its owners.

Cast in stone . A restorer cleans and analyses the remains of one of 86 casts in Pompeii. Picture: AFP Source:AFP

It was a picturesque place, full of finely detailed frescoes, bronze and stone statues, and a large garden. It had a spectacular view of the nearby sea.

Death, it seems, was instantaneous: The cloud of volcanic gas and debris was estimated to be some 300C — more than capable of carbonising organic material within moments.

Human toll . Work takes place on the restoration and study of victims in the laboratory of Pompeii Archaeological Site. Source: AFP Source:AFP

The job of preserving and restoring the bodies has been an emotional experience for the museum’s staff.

𠇎ven though it happened 2000 years ago, it could be a boy, a mother, or a family. It’s human archeology, not just archeology,” said Naples National Archaeological Museum conservator Stefania Giudice.

Delicate work . Preservation work on a cast and body from the Pompeii Archaeological Site. Source: AFP Source:AFP

“It can be very moving handling these remains when we apply the plaster,” Giudice said.

The restored remains of the family and 82 other individuals are the centre of a new exhibition in the Amphitheatre of Pompeii which opened at the weekend.

It was the morning of August 24, 79 AD when Mount Vesuvius exploded, turning the sky black with volcanic matter and burying the city of Pompeii beneath ash and pumice stone. The eruption lasted 24 hours, killing over 2, people and turning this once cosmopolitan commercial centre into a time capsule where architecture, art, and artifacts are preserved exactly as they were, providing a unique glimpse into what life was like in an ancient Roman civilization. The large rectangular area was the political, economic, and religious hub of the city where goods were sold, elections were held, and worshipers visited the Temple of Jupiter, built in the 2nd century B. This impressive oval structure, which dates back to 80 B. People came from far and wide to visit this entertainment centre and watch the gladiator games. Unlike other Roman amphitheatres there is no underground section, but had a cover which stretched over it when it rained.

Most of the written accounts on ancient Rome focus on politics, military matters, and the lives of wealthy and powerful people. But there is Pompeii, the city frozen in time, where one can see and learn about the life of lower-class people and slaves 2, years ago. It was believed that Pompeii was lost forever in one of the worst and most well-known volcanic eruptions of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. The Roman town was buried under 13 to 20 feet of volcanic ash and pumice, but it was accidentally rediscovered in the 18th century. Plaster casts of victims, Pompeii, Italy.

The Romans honored their god of fire on the 23rd of August each year. The eruption of Vesuvius began on Aug. Residents of Pompeii and nearby Herculaneum who decided to stay put rather than flee met their ends when a blast of ash and noxious gases barreled over the city walls at over miles per hour, killing every living thing in its path. Ash from Vesuvius continued to fall over the cities until they were completely covered in layers of debris that consumed all but the tallest buildings. Ironically, although the blast destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, it also perfectly preserved them.

Pompeiians Flash-Heated to Death—"No Time to Suffocate"

Victims' lifelike poses among clues that ash was not the key killer, study says.

The famous lifelike poses of many victims at Pompeii—seated with face in hands, crawling, kneeling on a mother's lap—are helping to lead scientists toward a new interpretation of how these ancient Romans died in the A.D. 79 eruptions of Italy's Mount Vesuvius.

Until now it's been widely assumed that most of the victims were asphyxiated by volcanic ash and gas. But a recent study says most died instantly of extreme heat, with many casualties shocked into a sort of instant rigor mortis.

Volcanologist Giuseppe Mastrolorenzo and colleagues began by analyzing layers of buried volcanic ash and rock, then fed the data into a computer simulation of the Mount Vesuvius eruption.

They concluded that the volcano, some six miles (ten kilometers) from Pompeii, produced six different pyroclastic surges—fast-moving, ground-hugging waves of hot, toxic gases and ash (aerial picture of Pompeii ruins).

Most of the hundreds of fatalities occurred during the fourth surge—the first to reach Pompeii—even though that surge was relatively slow and ash-poor.

Ash-deposit analysis and computer simulations of the surges suggest that Pompeii was at the edge of the flows' reach. That would mean the fourth surge "was too weak to wreck buildings," Mastrolorenzo, of the Italian National Institute for Geophysics and Volcanology, told National Geographic News.

The surge also carried relatively little ash, leaving behind a sediment layer only about an inch (three centimeters) deep, previous sediment measurements have shown.

But during the surge "temperatures outdoors—and indoors—rose up to 300°C [570°F] and more, enough to kill hundreds of people in a fraction of a second," said Mastrolorenzo, who led the study, published in the June 2010 issue of the journal PLoS ONE.

Among the evidence for such fatal temperatures are the team's bone studies. In a lab the researchers heated bone samples of freshly dead modern-day humans and horses, then compared the results to those seen in bones of Pompeiian victims of Vesuvius. Specific patterns of color and cracking in the ancient bones, among other features, "proved they were exposed to extreme heat," he said.

In addition, other reports have cited the melting of Pompeiian lead-tin silverware, which occurs at about 480°F [250°C], and the telltale charring of wood objects and food as proof of the temperatures during the disaster, according to the new study.

And then there are those death postures. About three-quarters of the known Pompeii victims are "frozen in suspended actions" and show evidence of sudden muscle contractions, such as curled toes, the study says.

"Heretofore archaeologists misinterpreted them as people struggling to breathe and believed they died suffocated by ashes," Mastrolorenzo said. "Now we know that couldn't be."

Because of the extreme heat, "when the pyroclastic surge hit Pompeii, there was no time to suffocate," he said. "The contorted postures are not the effects of a long agony, but of the cadaveric spasm, a consequence of heat shock on corpses."

The Last Moments of Pompeii, 79 A.D.

A lot of people have been to Pompeii, and a lot of bloggers have written extensively about the city. However, each perspective is unique, and no two people will experience the city in the same way. Pompeii was a thriving cosmopolitan Roman city near Naples, Italy. Although the city was conquered by the Romans in 80 B.C., it existed in one form or another for nearly 700 years before that. Archaeological evidence has recently proved that the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. was not the first seismic disaster Pompeii experienced, but it was the last.

My experience at Pompeii was not that of just another tourist. My background in Roman History and love of archaeology led me to place Pompeii very high on my list of must-see places. Pompeii is a very special and sacred place that I’ve wanted to experience from the time I was twelve. All of the movies, the history channel re-enactments, and documentaries sparked my interest at an early age. The moment of awe finally came when I was standing at the gates of the city. Pompeii is just so big, and so much is perfectly preserved that I could write about it for ten posts. I’m not going to do that, I’m going to tell you about the one thing from Pompeii that left an impression on me for life. The casts of Pompeii’s victims, frozen in their final moment of life, with the pain still visible on their faces, left an impression on me that I will never forget. In all of my years of travel, nothing has moved me more than seeing these souls frozen in time, at their last moment of life.

Of course there are many beautiful things to see at Pompeii, many perfectly peserved buildings, ancient mosaics and Latin Inscriptions, but once you see the casts of the people who died at Pompeii, it will stick with you forever. I could not tear myself away from that spot, staring at each cast intently, trying to make out their faces, imagining the horror they faced as a cloud of ash and poisonous gas from Mt. Vesuvisus smothered them to death. In the first photo above I imagined that the figure struggling to prop himself up is a man struggling to look upon his wife and child one last time. There are several places in Pompeii where you can view these casts, but the most famous is at the Garden of the Fugitives. The website shows that Garden of the Fugitives is crowded with tourists. However, I went in February and I was the only one at that spot at the time. I try my best to travel in the off-season, and the rewards almost always outweigh the inconveniences. If you don’t mind being a little cold, or a little wet, or getting up before everyone else, then you will almost always be rewarded with a unique and special visit. I could share three-hundred photographs of Pompeii, but I’ve tried to narrow them down to just a few of my favorites. Like the one above, where you can still see the wheel ruts from Roman wagons almost two thousand years ago! I only had one day at Pompeii, but honestly I could go there ten more times and see something new each visit. In addition to the outstanding preservation of the archaeological record under the ash, Pliny the Younger wrote a first-hand account of the disaster. He describes the event for us in great detail. His uncle, Pliny the Elder, was a Naval Commander who died trying to rescue the stranded citizens stuck in Pompeii. Pompeii was re-discovered again in 1599, and some of the first archaeological excavations in the world took place there in 1748. Archaeological fieldwork and conservation continues today. I have a great guidebook to the site, “Pompeii, A Practical and Complete Tour Guide of the City and Map of the Archaeological Zone.” I’m not usually into guidebooks, but for a place like Pompeii, it is a must-have. Even with the guidebook and a full day of exploration I feel like I missed a lot of the city. I’m really looking forward to a few more visits in order to gain a complete understanding of daily life at Pompeii.

I won’t presume to say what is a must-see, but I will list for you my five favorite areas of Pompeii.

1. The Garden of The Fugitives

3. The Via Stabiana (with its wagon wheel marks still visible)

4.The Pistrinum of Vicolo Toro (completely preserved bakery)

5. The Lupanar (or brothel house). It should also be noted that the most famous mosaics and frescos of Pompeii, The Alexander Mosaic from The House of the Faun, and the Portrait of the Baker and his Wife, can only be seen at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. Actually, almost all of the famous frescos and mosaics from Pompeii are not on site, but have been relocated to the Naples Museum for preservation and conservation. I found this out only after visiting Pompeii, and I was disappointed that I did not do the proper research in advance. I did manage to make it to Naples for a few hours, and it helps to tie everything together to see the images that once decorated the bare walls of Pompeii.

Pompeii is the most popular tourist attraction in Italy. The best time to go is as far into the off-season as possible. Archaeological excavations are still ongoing at Pompeii, and it is even possible to participate in an excavation for a few weeks. Conservation at Pompeii is a problem, even today, and even at such an important site. The money is just not there to preserve everything. In 2010, either through neglect, heavy rains, or a combination of both, the House of the Gladiators, which stood for more than two thousand years, collapsed into a pile of rubble.

Pompeii: The Mystery of the People Frozen in Time

Margaret Mountford examines new evidence to reveal the sequence of events that destroyed the city of Pompeii and attempts to discover what really killed its people.

The city of Pompeii uniquely captures the public's imagination - in AD79 a legendary volcanic disaster left its citizens preserved in ashes to this very day. Yet no-one has been able to unravel the full story that is at the heart of our fascination - how did those bodies become frozen in time?

For the first time, the BBC has been granted unique access to these strange, ghost-like body casts that populate the ruins and, using the latest forensic technology, the chance to peer beneath the surface of the plaster in order to rebuild the faces of two of the people who were killed in this terrible tragedy.

Margaret Mountford turns detective to tell a new story at the heart of one of history's most iconic moments, as she looks at the unique set of circumstances that led to the remarkable preservation of the people of Pompeii. By applying modern-day forensic analysis to this age-old mystery, Margaret dispels the myths surrounding the events in AD79. She also explores the lives of the individuals who once lived in this vibrant and enigmatic city and recreates the last moments of the people caught up in this tragedy.


“It’s a very rich story because it’s well informed,” Tuerenhout says. “It’s Rome, inscriptions, written eye witness accounts, archeology, DNA, it’s all part of the story.”

Split into two main sections, the first and largest part of exhibition invites visitors to experience a day, perhaps even the last day, in the life of the Pompeiian people. Here we find 150 objects of antiquity, the majority from the Naples National Archaeological Museum.

The exhibition organizers have arranged these things that remained – buried under ash and soil – into galleries representing different aspects of city life, from sculptures and frescos to cooking instruments and pottery, from gladiator armor to theatrical masks.

City Life

We begin at an elegant home of one of the city’s elites, getting a look at the architecture, decor and even a (metaphorical) taste of fine dining. We then journey to the heart of the city, the market place, and then take a trip to the theater and gladiator arena. The show even offers a chance to sneak down a hidden alleyway for a not so pretty peek inside a Roman brothel.

“It’s the people who made the city come alive that to me is the biggest story to be told: What was life like?” Tuerenhout says, describing the exhibition’s thematic organization.

“It’s like a time capsule, but it’s a complete time capsule, as opposed to a capsule you put in the corner of city hall when it was build in 1932 or something and it’s a few stamps, a coin and a newspaper article. This is the whole city.”

Walking through the galleries, I realized the exhibition has a distinct theatrical quality. These precious objects are given their own dramatic settings, a set enhanced by dynamic lighting and even atmospheric music to immerse visitors in feel of a bustling, ancient city.

Pompeii’s Final Day

The drama continues as we entered the simulated 4D eruption theater, that depicts those last 24 hours when all Pompeii’s life stopped. From there, the curtain rises on the exhibition’s “grand finale” as Tuerenhout called it, the body cast room.

These simple paster of paris cast objects might not be as ancient and sculpted as the art and artifacts in the earlier rooms, yet these body cast make Pompeii: The Exhibition one of the most moving and human antiquities shows in recent memory.

One of the eight body casts from the Pompeii: The Exhibition (Photo by Mike Rathke)

For these casts set in human and animal forms were created from the space the dead left behind. Many of the victims of Mount Vesuvius’s eruption died almost instantly, and then got covered by multiple layers of ash. Those layers encased the bodies, locking them in their last throes. Then nature and time eroded the tissue. Over 2000 years, the bodies decomposed, but the space still remained.

Tuerenhout effectively describes what those early archeologists encountered as they began excavating the site.

“As they were digging, they would occasionally find at the bottom of a pit they had dug a hole, or something would collapse and there would be an empty space below,” he says. “People didn’t know what it was until someone decided to pour plaster down the hole and eventually, when they removed the ash around it, it’s the shape of a hand or head or a foot, then the rest of the body.”

Burned into Time

The final gallery contains eight of those casts bathed in an eerie red light. As presented, the casts resemble art, monument and mummy simultaneously. To look upon the casts feels like an act both sacred and profane.

When I mentioned to Tuerenhout the casts feel the antithesis of the saying “frozen in time,” he agreed describing them as like being “burned in time.”

“You can image what that would be like: you’re running you’re tripping you’re falling you’re dead,” he says, describing the positions of the cast. He makes a comparison between the casts and an Egyptian mummy, a person who died peacefully and then prepared by fellow human beings for eternal rest. Instead the cast embody “the last moments of their lives with a desperate attempt to reach out.”

In the end, Pompeii resonates, giving us a new intellectual and emotional understanding of the life and death of a great city.

Pompeii: The Exhibition runs through September 6 at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Watch the video: Pompeii Frozen in Time