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New Perspective On Pompeii’s Plebians

Vesuvius blowing up in 79 A.D. may have been a disaster for Pompeii, but its aftermath continues to be a windfall for archaeologists and historians.

Frozen in time, and ash, the remains of Pompeii’s citizens give us a glimpses into ancient Roman life. Back in 1886 Giuseppe Fiorelli had the bright idea to preserve the victims in plaster for posterity. A smart idea but the insides were sealed off from modern investigations, as historians aren’t particularly inclined to hold a piñata party, ’til now.

Pompeii’s archaeological superintendent, Massimo Osanna, gathered together a crack team of scientists to take a closer look with a CT scan. Unlike conventional x-rays, CT scans create three dimensional images for a better understanding of human bodies and ancient Romans.

Unlike posh Herculaneum, Pompeii was a city of working-class people. Much to the surprise of the investigators, many of Pompeii’s residents were in good health. Diets were low in sugar, full of fresh fruits and vegetables, unlike their contemporaries guzzling soda, eating McDonald’s, and growing plump by the hour. One thing they shared in common with us was the local water being naturally fluoridated, ensuring strong teeth. Whether this promoted communism, undermining Romans’s “Purity of Essence” may forever remain a mystery.

This is real history. Names, dates, and battles are mere trivia. The ancient world is full of forgotten people who once laughed, loved, and shared the same dreams as our own. These small lives of everyday people, some lucky enough to be immortalized in ash and plaster, share a story far more compelling than Napoleon at Waterloo or Lincoln at Gettysburg.

Here’s hoping the coming ages are just as kind to us, so our descendents can feel the same kinship aroused in me seeing these images.

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