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The casts of Pompeii: Post-depositional methodological insights.

  • Alapont, Llorenç
  • Martinón-Torres, Marcos
  • Osanna, Massimo
  • Amoretti, Valeria
  • Chenery, Simon
  • Jiménez, José Luis
  • Cervera, M Luisa
  • Pastor, Agustín
  • Gallello, Gianni
  • Ramacciotti, Mirco
  • Morales Rubio, Ángel
Publication Date
Aug 23, 2023
Apollo - University of Cambridge Repository
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The casts of Pompeii bear witness to the people who died during the Vesuvius 79 AD eruption. However, studies on the cause of death of these victims have not been conclusive. A previous important step is the understanding of the post-depositional processes and the impact of the plaster in bones, two issues that have not been previously evaluated. Here we report on the anthropological and the first chemical data obtained from the study of six casts from Porta Nola area and one from Terme Suburbane. A non-invasive chemical analysis by portable X-ray fluorescence was employed for the first time on these casts of Pompeii to determine the elemental composition of the bones and the plaster. Elemental profiles were determined providing important data that cross-referenced with anthropological and stratigraphic results, are clearly helpful in the reconstruction of the perimortem and post-mortem events concerning the history of these individuals. The comparative analyses carried out on the bone casts and other collections from burned bones of the necropolis of Porta Nola in Pompeii and Rome Sepolcreto Ostiense, and buried bones from Valencia (Spain), reveal the extent of high temperature alteration and post-depositional plaster contamination. These factors make bioarchaeological analyses difficult but still allow us to support asphyxia as the likely cause of death.

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