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Pompeii: The Mystery of the People Frozen in Time

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How did the inhabitants of Pompeii die? When Vesuvius erupted in AD 79 no river of lava engulfed the town, and until recently it was assumed that the Roman townsfolk suffocated amid a cloud of volcanic ash.

But as Margaret Mountford (yes, former stern-faced Apprentice adviser Margaret) discovers here, it’s not that simple. She has a life-long interest in Pompeii and guides us through a new analysis of the remarkable casts of human remains that were uncovered at the site – of people preserved at the moment of death, statue-like, in macabre poses. What we learn about volcanos, ash clouds and something called a “pyroclastic current” is interesting, and only slightly spoilt by the usual reconstructions, where extras in Roman dress look anxiously up at the skies and run around a lot.


Documentary in which Margaret Mountford visits the Roman town of Pompeii, where in 79AD the catastrophic eruption of Vesuvius encased its citizens in lava, creating body casts that populate the ruins. No one has yet been able to fully explain how these people became frozen in time, so while forensic scientists peer beneath the plaster to rebuild the faces of two victims and recreate the final moments of the townsfolk, Margaret dispels the myths surrounding the events in 79AD and explores the lives of the individuals who lived in the enigmatic city.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Margaret Mountford
Director Chris Holt
Executive Producer Will Aslett
Producer Chris Holt


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