The archaeological site of Pompeii in southern Italy continues to fascinate, more than two thousand years after the city was buried in ash and pumice following the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.
Now, researchers in Italy are using CAT scans to find out more about the people inside the petrified corpses.
The remains of Pompeii’s victims were cast in plaster in the 19th century in order to preserve them. But the dense casts also made it difficult for researchers to analyse the bones and teeth inside, which is why the team has had to use a 16-layer scan machine.
And the tests have yielded surprising findings, showing that inhabitants of the city had perfect teeth.
“From the study we discovered the absence of cavities in the teeth. And this is very interesting and not that surprising because we all know about the healthy Mediterranean diet, and this has really shown up in the early analyses,” says the superintendent of the archaeological site, Massimo Osanna.
The lack of cavities is explained by the low amount of sugar in the Mediterranean diet and because of the high level of fluorine contained in the water supply.
Researchers also found many of the victims had actually died after being struck by falling masonry rather than suffocation.
“There’s also been a lot of discussion about how the victims died,” explains Osanna. “We have more than 1,000 remains on the site of Pompeii. From the analysis carried out on the bones we have found a lot of broken skulls. This tells us many died from roofs caving in under the pumice. Pumice is very light but when it builds up, up to 2 meters thick, it can make a roof collapse and that’s how many people were killed.”
It’s hoped many more findings about this ancient civilisation will emerge from the analyses. The team aims to scan a total of 86 recently restored human casts, as well as animal remains from the site.