Pompeii's Living Statues
Ancient Roman Lives Stolen from Death
Apr 15 2013
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In AD 79, Mt. Vesuvius inundated Pompeii with a combination of gases, pumice, and rocks, killing thousands of people and animals and burying them in ash and mud. During excavations of the town in 1863, Giuseppe Fiorelli, the director of the dig, poured plaster into a cavity under the soil revealed by a workman's pick. When the plaster set and the mound was uncovered, all were amazed to see the secret that the ground had held for 1,800 years: a detailed cast of an ancient Pompeian, frozen in the instant of dying and complete in every respect, right down to clothes and jewellery. Eugene Dwyer examines these casts and related records, the originals of a number of which were destroyed in World War II. The author also discusses Pompeii and its artefacts in the context of Italian unification and party politics, the development of modern excavation methods, and the challenges of maintaining a large archaeological site. Dwyer's clear organisation and writing style, combined with a collection of photographs and engravings, make for a fascinating exploration.