History GCSE: Can science reveal what two of the victims of Vesuvius actually looked like?

The remains of two victims of the Vesuvius eruption are analysed to provide data that are then analysed to allow their faces to be reconstructed.

Margaret Mountford meets an expert in anatomical facial reconstruction who uses X-rays of the skull of a male victim from Pompeii to reconstruct his skull shape.

The X-rays pass through the plaster of Paris more easily than through bone.

A female victim from Herculaneum, known as Bella Donna is also analysed, but because her actual skull is available, a 3D scanner can be used instead of X-rays.

The large eye sockets indicate her sex and the high degree of facial symmetry indicate her beauty.

Layers of wax are built up on the reconstructed skulls to represent muscle and skin, and then hair and clothes are added using information from anthropologists and archaeologists.

The results are impressive.

This clip is from the series Pompeii: The Mystery of the People Frozen in Time.

Teacher Notes

Pupils could use this to form a peice of work on the people of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Looking at how they lived, what they wore and what they did for living.

They could create their own Pompeii or Herculaneum citizen through CAD and/ or plaster of Paris.

Curriculum Notes

This clip will be relevant for teaching GCSE History. Appears in Edexcel, AQA, WJEC KS4/GCSE in England and Wales, CCEA GCSE in Northern Ireland and SQA National 5 in Scotland.

More from Pompeii: The Mystery of the People Frozen in Time

What happened when Vesuvius erupted in 79AD?
What happened at Herculaneum, the town not far from Pompeii?
How did the victims of Pompeii die?
Why weren't the clothes of the Pompeii victims destroyed by the heat of a pyroclastic current?
How were the casts of the victims of Pompeii made?