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Pompeii: The Mystery of the People Frozen in Time

Margaret Mountford examines new evidence to reveal the sequence of events that destroyed the city of Pompeii and attempts to discover what really killed its people.

The city of Pompeii uniquely captures the public's imagination - in AD79 a legendary volcanic disaster left its citizens preserved in ashes to this very day. Yet no-one has been able to unravel the full story that is at the heart of our fascination - how did those bodies become frozen in time?

For the first time, the BBC has been granted unique access to these strange, ghost-like body casts that populate the ruins and, using the latest forensic technology, the chance to peer beneath the surface of the plaster in order to rebuild the faces of two of the people who were killed in this terrible tragedy.

Margaret Mountford turns detective to tell a new story at the heart of one of history's most iconic moments, as she looks at the unique set of circumstances that led to the remarkable preservation of the people of Pompeii. By applying modern-day forensic analysis to this age-old mystery, Margaret dispels the myths surrounding the events in AD79. She also explores the lives of the individuals who once lived in this vibrant and enigmatic city and recreates the last moments of the people caught up in this tragedy.

1 hour

Last on

Mon 6 Sep 2021 02:05

Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • 00:41


    Til The Stars In His Eyes Are Dead

Four ways a volcano can kill

Four ways a volcano can kill

It wasn't red-hot lava or suffocating clouds of ash that killed the people of Pompeii, it was something far more unusual, and much more frightening.

Read the feature at BBC Science

What objects did people take as they fled?

What objects did people take as they fled?

Buried in volcanic ash alongside the people of ancient Pompeii and Herculaneum were the possessions they took with them as Mount Vesuvius erupted, but what do these items they clung to tell us about them and us?

Read the feature at BBC History


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