Pompeii—the name of this ancient city, once buried by the forces of our planed, has become a synonym for this type of cataclysmic destruction. E.g. the buried Houses on Hemaey in Ícland are calles »Iceland’s Pompeii«.

The science behind the victims of Pompeii

The Riddle of Pompeii (DSC, 2001)

In AD 79 the legendary volcano Vesuvius erupted in one of the deadliest volcanic eruptions of all time, destroying the town of Pompeii. For 400 years archaeologists have studied the ancient bodies found buried beneath layers of ash and rock. The explanation for the victims‘ deaths has always been that they were killed by flying rocks and boiling lava. This is the interpretation still given to tourists who visit the site at Pompeii today…


Out of the Ashes – Recovering the Lost Library of Herculaneum (PBS, 2003)

In 1752, an ancient library was discovered at Herculaneum, buried beneath the ashes of Mount Vesuvius. Astonishingly, nearly 2000 carbonized papyrus rolls were preserved, though some were so badly burned they looked like pieces of charcoal. While some texts from the philosophical library have been published, many of the papyri have yet to be unrolled or read.

OUT OF THE ASHES: RECOVERING THE LOST LIBRARY OF HERCULANEUM follows attempts over 250 years to unroll and decipher these precious manuscripts…


Pompeii: Life and Death in a Roman Town (BBC, 2010)

Pompeii: one of the most famous volcanic eruptions in history. We know how its victims died, but this film sets out to answer another question – how did they live? Gleaning evidence from an extraordinary find, Cambridge professor and Pompeii expert Mary Beard provides new insight into the lives of the people who lived in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius before its cataclysmic eruption. In a dark cellar in Oplontis, just three miles from the centre of Pompeii, 54 skeletons who didn’t succumb to the torrent of volcanic ash are about to be put under the microscope…


Pompeii: Rebirth of a City (HST, 2010)

Archaeology, as we understand it, didn’t exist in 1758 when Johann Joachim Winckelmann made his way from the royal library in Dresden, Germany, to visit another private collection. He wanted to see the King of Naples’s museum of statues, salvaged from crude digs at the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, 1700 years after their destruction in the eruption of Vesuvius in AD79. The king’s guards refused him entry…


Pompeii: The Mystery of the People Frozen in Time (BBC, 2013)

One-off drama documentary, presented by Dr Margaret Mountford. The city of Pompeii uniquely captures the public’s imagination; in 79AD a legendary volcanic disaster left its citizens preserved in ashes to this very day. Yet no-one has been able to unravel the full story that is at the heart of our fascination: how did those bodies become frozen in time?



The Other Pompeii: Life and Death in Herculaneum (BBC, 2013)

Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill presents a documentary following the scientific investigation that aims to lift the lid on what life was like in the small Roman town of Herculaneum, moments before it was destroyed by a volcanic erruption. The investigation, based arround the discovery of 12 arched vaults, reveals in great detail the lives of the ill-fated town’s residents, and unique aerial photography gives a behind-the-scenes look at the town from the skies…


Pompeii: New Secrets Revealed (BBC, 2016)

With unparalleled access to Pompeii and featuring cutting-edge modern technology, Mary Beard guides us through this amazing slice of the ancient world. For the first time ever, CT scanning and x-ray equipment bring new light to the secrets of the victims of the 79 AD eruption. Mary unpacks the human stories behind the tragic figures – gladiators, slaves, businesswomen and children. She goes behind the scenes of the Great Pompeii Project, where restoration teams have gradually removed the layers of time and deterioration from the frescoes and mosaics of houses closed to the public for decades. And with the help of point-cloud scanning technology, Pompeii is seen and explained like never before. Mary has unprecedented access to hidden storerooms and archaeological labs packed to the hilt with items from daily life: plumbing fittings, pottery, paint pots, foodstuff and fishing nets. As she pieces it all together, Mary presents a film that is a celebratory and unique view of life in this extraordinary town.



Pompeii: The Last Day (BBC, DSC, 2003)

On 24 August AD79, the sleeping giant Mount Vesuvius erupted with horrifying force, destroying the prosperous Roman cities Pompeii and Herculeneum. Their inhabitants were subjected to 24 hours of untold horror. Four million tonnes of pumice, rock and ash rained on the towns, suffocating the life out of the cities, and burying alove those who had been unable to flee.

Pompeii – The Last Day recreates that momentous day, and shows first hand the horror of Pompeii’s last hours. Factual characters based on historical and forensic evidence unearthed in Pompeii and Herculaneum, as well as extracts from Gauis Plinius Monor’s account of the disaster, help bring to life one of the most notorious disasters in history.

Using stunning visual effects, the film recreates each stage of the 24 hour eruption and explores the devastating impact on the main characters; Julius Polybius, wealthy baker and aspiring politician; Stephanus, a cloth worker and social climber and his wife Fortunata Celadus the celebrity gladiator; Pliny the elder, in charge of the rescue mission; and, finally, Pliny the younger, who documents the horrors of the tragedy.

The highest ever rated history documentary on the BBC at the time of its release in 2003, it was reportedly watched by more than 10 million people.


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