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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Archaeologists are using CT scans to study the plaster casts of victims of Mount Vesuvius

...In 1974 four people were discovered in voids under a flight of stairs leading to the House of the Golden Bracelet’s garden. Using the technique pioneered by Fiorelli, casts were made of the bodies, revealing them to be a man, a woman, and two small children who had likely died on the eruption’s second day, killed either by the collapse of the staircase or by the pyroclastic flow. The casts have now been moved to a lab in Pompeii as part of an ambitious project to study and restore 86 of the 103 that have been made, including the four people from the House of the Golden Bracelet. Some casts are more than 150 years old, and their surfaces have become marred and pitted. Iron rods used for reinforcement have rusted and expanded, cracking the casts, and preserved bones have decayed. Even some of the newer ones (the most recent was made in 1999) have shown need of immediate care. “We decided to undertake this project now because we need to maintain the casts’ structural integrity. It will also bring the story of Pompeii’s destruction to those living now, and to future generations,” says Stefano Vanacore, the director of the lab in Pompeii. None of the casts has ever been restored, presenting the team with a huge challenge. “There was no experience of how to restore the casts, and no single way to do so because they were made over such a long time using many different materials,” Vanacore says. “For example, Fiorelli used very high-quality plaster reinforced with wood, so his casts are in much better condition than those made later with poorer quality materials.”...

Pompeii Casts Family
(Pasquale Sorrentino)
Casts of the man, the woman, and the two children found in the House of the Golden Bracelet

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