Everything we knew about the victims of the eruption of Vesuvius, occurred in AD 79, and about the ancient town is false: the truth, different from that which so far had been told, is coming to light thanks to the analysis of Mary Beard, professor at the University of Cambridge and historian who has spent her life investigating Pompeii.
Her investigations have focused on the body casts of the victims, who represent the people at the exact instant of their death during the eruption. The casts were created in 1863 by Giuseppe Fiorelli, director of excavations at the time, filling with liquid plaster the empty spaces of the bodies that emerged under the ashes.
The scientist has examined some of the recently restored plaster casts, subjecting them to analysis of a CAT scan, a machine normally used in medicine. The test results are surprising and reveal something very different from what until now was considered truth.
Every cast is a person with its own history. "In fact, over the years many legends have been invented about these people and their way of life", like Mary Beard explains. Stories that we were always told but that were proved to be false.
Starting from the cast known as the "beggar": in his hand he had a strange object, which was believed to be the bag where to put the alms money and so far hasbeen imagined as an old man. That’s all false: the strange object in his hand is a flaw of the plaster cast and the exams, analyzing the clothes he wore, showed expensive sandals and belts used only by persons of the richest social classes. Regarding the age, he was not aged, but a young man in good shape.
And the "pregnant woman"? Never existed: she never had the belly, but her clothes had created a bulge during the eruption. Also debunked was the myth of the "Moro", which was previously believed a slave from North Africa. But the examination made through the CAT scan shows that he was a young man in good shape and that "there is no evidence that he arrived from North Africa or he had dark skin".
Moreover, Mary Beard explains that many details have come to light from the analyzes show that Pompeii was not a marginal city isolated from the rest of the Roman Empire. But it was a very lively center of many wealthy young people full of initiatives.
Legend had it, that young and healthy people were able to escape the eruption, leaving smoldering elderly, sick and pregnant women. All collapsed myths: the volcano's victims were neither old nor pregnant women, but young people in good health. According to what Mary Beard found out, they were probably wealthy citizens, who until last time attempted to salvage their belongings.
Collapsed, finally, even the certainties on the period of the eruption of Vesuvius. So far, everyone was convinced that it had taken place in the middle of August, but the clothes worn by the victims were heavy: it means that the tragic event happened during the fall season, with all due respect to what we had always believed.
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