Silent Witnesses: 9 Astounding Revelations About the Bodies Discovered at the Pompeii Volcanic Explosion
Silent Witnesses: 9 Astounding Revelations About the Bodies Discovered at the Pompeii Volcanic Explosion

Silent Witnesses: 9 Astounding Revelations About the Bodies Discovered at the Pompeii Volcanic Explosion

Alexander Meddings - August 14, 2017

Silent Witnesses: 9 Astounding Revelations About the Bodies Discovered at the Pompeii Volcanic Explosion
Plaster cast showing a dog’s final agonizing moments. Pinterest

Pompeii doesn’t just have human bodies

One of the unique things about Pompeii (at least as far as its inhabitants go) is that it shows off a true cross-section of Roman society. There are bodies of infants just as there are bodies of the elderly; there are the remains of the stinking rich, surrounded by jewelry and coins, just as there are those of the poor, who fled Vesuvius without a single possession to whatever their name was.

There are slaves, gladiators and aristocrats. And, as you’d expect from a fully functioning town in the middle of the countryside, there are the remains of animals: specifically a small boar and a dog.

The dog is particularly disturbing. The cast captures it writhing in its last moments of agony as the pyroclastic flow thundered down the volcano, incinerating everything in its path. Strangely, CT scans have revealed it to be a dog without a bone—without any bones in fact. In their attempt to explain this, archaeologists have (rather obviously) suggested that the bones were removed from the cavity prior to the plaster being poured in. Why, however, remains a mystery.

Pompeii’s canine legacy doesn’t end here. One of the main attractions when you visit the site is the cave canem mosaic; a sign at the entrance of the House of the Tragic Poet that, when translated, gives us our first ever example of “Beware of the Dog”. And that’s not all. Visit Pompeii today, and you’ll find packs of strays mulling around the city, lured here by the promise of scraps donated by generous tourists. Unlike the tourists, these are the only living creatures in the vicinity blissfully unaware of the tragic fate of their ancestors.

 

Sources For Further Reading:

Fiorelli Method: The Last Breath of Pompeii: The Plaster Casts Technique

Slate – Imprisoned in Ash: The Plaster Citizens of Pompeii

Smithsonian Magazine – Well-Preserved Remains of Two Vesuvius Victims Found in Pompeii

The New York Times – He Died at Pompeii, but His Head Wasn’t Crushed by a Block

National Geographic Channel – Horses Found in Pompeii May Have Been Harnessed to Flee Eruption

Live Science – Mount Vesuvius Didn’t Kill Everyone in Pompeii. Where Did the Survivors Go?

Science Magazine – Medieval DNA Suggests Columbus Didn’t Trigger Syphilis Epidemic in Europe

The Conversation – Pompeii: Ancient Remains Are Helping Scientists Learn What Happens to A Body Caught In A Volcanic Eruption

History Collection – 20th Century’s Deadliest Disasters

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