The city’s destruction, and the thing that has kept Pompeii so fascinating over the centuries, entails a paradox: The surge of ash and hot gas that blanketed thousands of victims also, simultaneously, preserved their bodies—along with their colorful art, sparkling jewelry, wine jugs, scrolls, and other cultural remnants.
Now, scientists are using new imaging technologies to examine in detail the bones and teeth of those killed in the blast.
Detailed casts of Pompeii’s victims—made by pouring plaster into the small cavities in their ash-encapsulated remains—have long prevented sophisticated scanning of this nature. The 19th-century plaster is so dense that today’s standard imaging technology can’t distinguish between the thick outer cast and skeletal pieces inside. But researchers recently used a multi-layer CT scan to obtain imagery never before possible, then used software to make digital 3-D reconstructions of skeletons and dental arches.