Today’s Reppublica has an article about the restoration of the plaster casts from Pompeii. (Warning: some of these pictures are a bit graphic. Bones included.)
The article is accompanied by a slideshow, which shows both most casts and much closer views than I, at least, had seen before. Even if you don’t read Italian or don’t want to read the article, the pictures are really worth a look. The detailed views are incredible, and you can see details of clothing and hairstyle on several of the preserved bodies. Some of the images are fairly routine, but others are heartbreaking — for example, #25, preserving an adult playing with a small child, or #49, a child.
Issues of the ethics of human remains are often less pressing in classical archaeology, because we are so distanced from that past. Some of the value, I think, in reporting like this lies in problematizing that a bit for the non-archaeologists who work with classical antiquity — I assume, perhaps unfairly, that archaeologists are less troubled by bodies than I am. It’s less about the research being done — preserving the bodies, doing scans of various types, and DNA work are all mentioned as part of the research program in the article — but the gawking factor. (And yes, I realize that I am encouraging readers to go gawk. But this is also part of what troubles me.)
All the same, I’ll look forward to the results of the research when it’s published. Not many details are offered in the article (I haven’t watched the video), but I assume the DNA testing will look for family groups among the casts, and possibly also for prevalence of disease. If anyone knows anything else, please share!
(H/T to Kristina Killgrove, whose twitter feed passed on the story!)
Quick Takes: Recasting Pompeii by https://libraryofantiquity.wordpress.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.