History GCSE: Why weren't the clothes of the Pompeii victims destroyed by the heat of a pyroclastic current?

Footage of the casts of the victims of Pompeii show that the clothes worn by the victims are intricately preserved, which initially presented scientists with some challenges to the idea that death was due to intense and sudden heat from a pyroclastic current.

An experiment in a laboratory at Edinburgh University is used to explain how the woollen clothes worn by the inhabitants of Pompeii could have survived.

Pieces of pork are wrapped in the cloth and then exposed to intense infra-red radiation for 150 seconds.

The wool is slightly charred but remains intact, despite the edge of the pork being heated to between 200 to 250 degrees Celsius, which would have caused death.

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

Teacher Notes

This could be used as a continuation on a project about how the victims of Pompeii died; looking specifically at their clothes and how they remained in tact.

Pupils could look at the different explanations for the survival of the clothes over the years and how this compares to today's discoveries.

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.

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How were the casts of the victims of Pompeii made?
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Can science reveal what two of the victims of Vesuvius actually looked like?
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