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Fiorelli’s method – how were burnt bodies recovered from Pompeii?

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Fiorelli's method
Fiorelli's method | Photo: Pier Paolo Petrone

The eruption of Vesuvius in August 79 CE was a powerful cataclysm. To this day, we can admire the remains of Pompeii inhabitants buried alive. And this is due to the brilliant method of Giuseppe Fiorelli.

Mostly people from the city of Herculaneum were burned alive by the so-called a hot cloud1. To date, archaeologists have discovered a total of about 1,150 bodies. They survived with the matter of ashes covering Pompeii, which quickly solidified, retaining the shape of buried bodies inside. Researchers have successfully “revived” hundreds of bodies through a unique method.

Giuseppe Fiorelli developed a method for making plaster casts of bodies. Through a small hole he poured stucco plaster, which filled the entire empty space. After setting the plaster, he removed the ash layer, revealing the castings of bodies, objects, building elements, etc. Later, transparent material was used, which allowed to see small objects, bones hidden inside the casting. Thanks to Fiorelli, to this day we can understand the horror of the inhabitants of the destroyed cities.

  1. The exception is the discovery from 1981. Then, in Herculaneum, human skeletons from the 1st century CE were unearthed. In total, 55 skeletons (30 adult males, 13 adult females and 12 children) were found.
  • Beard Mary, Pompeje. Życie rzymskiego miasta, Poznań 2010

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