Bodies From the Ash: Life and Death in Ancient Pompeii

Overview

In ancient times, Pompeii was one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire. Its 20,000 inhabitants lived in the shadow of Vesuvius, which they believed was nothing more than a mountain. But Vesuvius was a volcano. And on the morning of August 24, A.D. 79, Vesuvius began to erupt. Within twenty-four hours, the entire city of Pompeii—and many of its citizens—had been utterly annihilated.

It was not until hundreds of years later that Pompeii saw daylight again, as archaeological ...

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Overview

In ancient times, Pompeii was one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire. Its 20,000 inhabitants lived in the shadow of Vesuvius, which they believed was nothing more than a mountain. But Vesuvius was a volcano. And on the morning of August 24, A.D. 79, Vesuvius began to erupt. Within twenty-four hours, the entire city of Pompeii—and many of its citizens—had been utterly annihilated.

It was not until hundreds of years later that Pompeii saw daylight again, as archaeological excavations began to unearth what had been buried under layers of volcanic rubble. Digging crews expected to find buildings and jewelry and other treasures, but they found something unexpected, too: the imprints of lost Pompeiians, their deaths captured as if by photographic images in volcanic ash.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"With incredibly engrossing images and narrative, this is a powerful and poignant piece of nonfiction."–School Library Journal, starred School Library Journal, Starred

"The jewels here are the numerous black-and-white (and some color) photographs. . . . Excellent for browsers as well as researchers." ––Booklist Booklist, ALA

Children's Literature
Over 2,000 years ago, the busy Roman city of Pompeii was buried when Mount Vesuvius erupted. Since its re-discovery and excavation in the 1700s, it has offered invaluable information about the past (some of which has been lost to looters). James Deem provides budding archeologists with this intriguing look at the lost town. The first chapter gives a bit of history and background of the town itself, while the rest of the book is devoted to looking at the town from an archeological standpoint. Chapter Two details how the city was eventually rediscovered and became one of the most famous archeological sites in the world. Chapter Three is entirely dedicated to describing how many of the bodies left imprints in the ash, imprints that one could use to create plaster casts of the victims. Chapter Four explains how these casts help historians re-create the last moments of the victims and even tell a bit about their lives. Chapter Five describes the lesser-known town of Herculaneum, also a victim of Vesuvius. The final chapter describes Pompeii in the modern world, from new techniques for creating casts to threats to the city. This detailed yet easily comprehensible text is accompanied by numerous color photographs. A must for any student researching a report on Pompeii. 2005, Houghton Mifflin, Ages 8 up.
—Amie Rose Rotruck
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8-In A.D. 79, Mount Vesuvius erupted and within 24 hours, ash, pumice, and volcanic rubble had covered, and annihilated, the city of Pompeii. It was not until the 18th century that workers began to uncover the remains of this nearly forgotten, except in legend, city and its inhabitants. In this well-researched account, Deem retells the story of this devastating eruption, combining a lively text with photographs of the bones and artifacts that have been unearthed through the years. In 1863, an excavator discovered a fascinating way to study human remains. As bodies covered in hot ash and enveloped by volcanic material decayed, spaces were left around the skeletons. After the hollow areas were filled with plaster, the surrounding debris was chipped away, resulting in detailed plaster casts that preserved "imprints of the people's dying moments," showing their facial expressions and body positions as well as their clothing and possessions. Deem explains how scientists have used these molds and other evidence to piece together the life styles and final moments of some of the victims, and conveys these heart-wrenching tales. Dramatic photographs of the casts capture the horror of this event and help readers to envision day-to-day life in this civilization. With incredibly engrossing images and narrative, this is a powerful and poignant piece of nonfiction.-Jodi Kearns, University of Akron, OH Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This fascinating exploration of the buried city of Pompeii begins with a recreation of the catastrophic eruption of Vesuvius and ends with a snapshot of Pompeii today. In between are packed details of the various excavations that have led to our current knowledge of both the life and death of the city. Weaving in the contemporary account of Younger Pliny and the archaeological evidence, the narrative meticulously describes the effects of the various stages of the eruption on the inhabitants and the topography of Pompeii and its neighboring communities. The city's rediscovery receives equally careful coverage, a whole chapter covering Giuseppe Fiorelli's revolutionary technique of creating plaster casts of the victims from the cavities left by their bodies. Avoiding the opportunity to sensationalize, Deem's consistently respectful treatment places the humanity of the victims at the fore. One signal weakness, however, is that the photographs that generously illustrate this volume are not identified or dated within the caption, leaving readers in the dark as to what is archival and what is modern. (bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618473083
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/28/2005
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 64
  • Sales rank: 231,962
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 1120L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 11.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.19 (d)

Meet the Author

James M. Deem is the author of numerous books for young readers, including 3 NB of Julian Drew, Bodies from the Ice: Melting Glaciers and the Rediscovery of the Past , and Faces From the Past . Mr. Deem lives outside of Phoenix, Arizona.

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