What are the Pompeii Body Casts?

The City of Pompeii in Italy is known best for the tragic eruption that sent 2000 people to their untimely demise. Though this event was indeed tragic, it brought about one of the modern-days most fascinating wonders. The ruins of Pompeii were discovered around 1700 years after the eruption, and with careful excavation, they were discovered to be in excellent repair.

While the archaeological site certainly are a sight to behold, with all the contents of the buildings still fully intact, it’s still difficult to imagine what it must have been like for the thousands that perished beneath this enormous volcano. But just as the houses and structures were preserved beneath the avalanche of pumice and ash, so too were the likenesses of the people of Pompeii. As many as 1150 bodies have been found since the excavations of the mid 1800’s. These bodies, much like the town, were encased in the ash and debris that rained down from the eruption, which had the unlikely effect of preservation.

How are the Body Casts Formed?

Though the physical bodies were burnt and much of them decayed over time, their skeletons remained intact, leaving hollows surrounding the bones that were the perfect negatives of the people within. These hollows have been very carefully removed in chunks of stone and compressed ash and used as moulds to give us a glimpse of the eerie final moments of each of the people. To actually look at these plaster casts is to witness the expressions, clothing and positions of these people as they lost their lives to the infamous Mount Vesuvius eruption in 79 AD. Though the eruption itself lasted for hours upon hours, it was the subsequent landslide as the cone of the volcano collapsed that really hid the remains of Pompeii from the world for almost 2000 years.

While it really is a phenomenal thing to see these incredible pieces of history brought back to life in the plaster casts, the project has been terminated because the plaster can damage the fragile remains of the people of Pompeii. While there may not be any new faces added to the numerous already-cast, you can still examine these casts to get a deeper understanding of just what these men, women and children must have gone through in their final hour.

Naples, which is the nearest large city to Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii, is one of the best places to view these casts, with several of them having been moved there in the interest of further preservation. There is nothing quite like viewing these casts to round off your tour of Pompeii.

Don’t miss the chance to explore our Pompeii Tour if you’re in the area.