Weird History
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Things Most People Don't Know About Pompeii

Updated September 23, 2021 4.5m views17 items

Mount Vesuvius was responsible for the destruction of the city of Pompeii in 79 AD. Nearly everyone has heard one story or another about arguably the most well-known volcanic eruption in history, but how many of you know what really happened on that fateful day in Pompeii?

This mountain located on the west coast of Italy is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, but the Vesuvius eruption is just one part of the story of the Italian city. How much do you know about daily life before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius? Hopefully, these facts about Pompeii will shed some light on one of the most famous ancient catastrophes in recorded history, as well as the vibrant society that preceded it. 

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  • Pompeii’s Citizens Had Perfect Teeth

    During the 1800s, the skeletal remains found in Pompeii were cast in plaster for protection. This made research and examination impossible for scientists at the time, but, thanks to contemporary technology (more specifically, multi-layer CT scans), modern Italian scientists were able to make 3-D reconstructions of the skeletons that provided interesting insights into life in Pompeii.

    One of the things that surprised researchers the most was the exemplary teeth of the majority of Pompeii's citizens. Their dental fortitude was mainly due to their good diet (rich in fruits and vegetables), as well as extremely high levels of fluorine that existed around the volcano.

  • Photo: Taro Taylor / Flickr / CC 2.0

    The Ash Didn't Kill Everyone; The Heat Did

    The estimates as to how many people were killed in Pompeii vary greatly, and the number has been a topic of debate among historians for decades. Regardless of how many people actually perished, it seems that we were wrong in our belief that most of the victims died of suffocation from the ash in the air. 

    New studies suggest that most died instantly from the extreme heat. According to Italian scientists, residents of Pompeii may have been exposed to temperatures well over 1,000 degrees. 

  • Photo: Yann Forget/Phaidon / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    People Tried To Create Makeshift Masks To Save Themselves

    Although the story of Pompeii is rife with tragic elements, perhaps one of the saddest things archeologists discovered is that the citizens tried to save themselves using their tunics as makeshift masks. In the 1990s, when they uncovered many of the remains, archeologists noticed that a number of the bodies had their tunics pulled up around their mouths in an attempt to ward off the unbelievably thick, smoky, and sulfurous air. Unfortunately, the extreme temperatures made this attempt futile.

  • Photo: Amphipolis / Flickr / CC 2.0

    Graffiti Was A Trend In Pompeii

    If you think graffiti is a modern invention, think again. Even today, visitors can see the vast amount of well-preserved graffiti in Pompeii (and other, more explicit wall paintings), which gives us insight into the local society at the time. Among others, you can see graffiti on the wall of a brothel that reads, “Myrtis, you suck well.” Way to keep it classy, ancient humans.