[ Explosion ] -Pompeii -- a place whose very name conjures images of disaster.
Buried by a catastrophic volcanic eruption almost 2,000 years ago, this ancient Roman city is seared into our collective memory -- a symbol of the fragility of life itself.
Plaster casts famously preserve the final moments of countless victims.
But what was life like in the streets of ancient Pompeii before the eruption?
Past excavations focused on plucking valuable artifacts from the site, rather than uncovering the stories of citizens and the enslaved.
It's been decades since the last comprehensive excavation, and a new generation of archeologists is digging in, laser-focused on capturing a clear picture of how people lived in Pompeii's final days and hours, and finding household objects that remind us how much we have in common with the residents of Pompeii.
-It's a pair of tweezers.
-They're the same as ours.
-Yes, but much larger.
-The excavations have already revealed dazzling works of art unseen by human eyes for millennia.
-Our main interest is not ancient art but the lifeworld of these people.
-They have uncovered a strikingly modern city, complete with fast food and a vehicle that some have called "the Lamborghini of the ancient world."
"Secrets of the Dead" was made possible in part by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you.
-Italian archaeologists are undertaking the first major excavations in Pompeii since the 1950s, and the first to use modern scientific techniques.
♪♪ When the excavation began in 2018, Massimo Ossana was the director of the Pompeii Archaeological Park, and is now the director general of all Italian state museums.
-What fascinates me about archeology is that it can lead us to rewrite history.
-In the initial excavations, the team unearthed not just rooms and houses but an entire street and a city square.
Laser scans documented their progress and created accurate 3-D imagery of the neighborhood.
They found evidence of construction work -- a common sight in 1st-century Pompeii, which had been heavily damaged by a series of earthquakes in the years before the eruption.
-People were working, repairing water pipes, renovating houses, rebuilding streets.
All of that helps us erase the image of a perfect city where everything was intact at the time of the eruption.
-In those early excavations, archaeologists even uncovered evidence about the date of the disaster, which has long been recorded in the history books as August 24th of the year 79 A.D.
Scrawled in charcoal on the wall of a house, they found a date that had apparently just been written there in the days before the eruption.
Surprisingly, it corresponds to October on the Roman calendar -- two months after the long-accepted August date.
-We must consider that the date of August 24th, which I've always considered accurate until today, is no longer valid.
-If the disaster did not happen in the heat of summer, but rather the cool autumn of that same year, new excavations might turn up further evidence.
Intrigued by this and the other discoveries made in the initial phase of the project, the new site director hopes to fill in even more of the picture of life in Pompeii's final days.
-This is a project that is possible only thanks to a broad range of professional collaborators, not only archeologists but also restorators, architects, engineers.
That's really where it gets interesting, because it brings us a bit closer to a vision of how life was here 2,000 years ago.
-Along a newly excavated street, the horrific final hours of Pompeii are thrown into sharp relief.
Undisturbed since it was deposited, nearly 2,000 years ago, a clear stratigraphy of layered volcanic material measures up to 16 feet thick.
If the eruption of Mount Vesuvius was a disaster in two acts, this layer captures the first.
It began with a relentless rain of lightweight stone, known as pumice or lapilli, ejected from the volcano.
-In Pompeii, it was about 15 centimeters per hour.
That means, one hour later, there were 15, then 30, and after 4 hours, 60 centimeters, and so on.
-Imagine standing in these streets as volcanic rock fell from the sky at a rate of 15 centimeters per hour.
A relentless hailstorm of pumice that began at 1:00 p.m. and continued until 6:00 a.m. the next morning.
When the pumice finally stopped falling, doors were blocked, and the streets were filled to the height of second-story windows.
Many roofs had collapsed from the weight of the stones.
[ Stones clattering ] It may have seemed the worst was over.
But Vesuvius had another horror in store.
By the time the shower of stone ended, the eruption column may have towered 20 miles above the crater.
The ash cloud became so dense that it began to collapse in on itself.
A pyroclastic flow of gases, rock, and ash rushed down toward the city.
[ Rumbling ] These superheated landslides can travel at more than 60 miles per hour.
The first to hit Pompeii did minimal damage.
But recent studies suggest a second wave reached the city, bringing temperatures in excess of 200 degrees Fahrenheit, engulfing Pompeii in 15 minutes of hell on earth.
Buildings were inundated by hot ash and volcanic glass.
Many residents who had failed to evacuate suffocated, their lungs filled with the equivalent of hot, thick cement.
The dead were encased in a deep layer of ash, which later hardened around them.
As each body naturally decayed, what was left was a skeleton surrounded by a cavity in the hardened ash -- a near-perfect mold of the 2,000-year-old body itself.
The archeologists at Pompeii are able to fill these molds with plaster to create three-dimensional casts of the victims, just as they looked when they succumbed to the fury of Mount Vesuvius.
-Here we can see the power of the pyroclastic flow.
Like a wave or a river, it found openings and entered this house.
At one point, the pyroclastic flow broke the walls of the Room of the Skeletons, in which we are now.
-Almost 2,000 years later, the dead are still emerging from the ash.
-But look at this.
This is interesting.
-There are lapilli.
-Yes, so it was probably the collapse of the roof that crushed them.
-Everything is possible.
-To get a full picture of life across the ancient social spectrum, the team has been drawn to a partially-excavated complex in a suburb 700 yards north of Pompeii.
In 2014, the Italian national police, the carabinieri, discovered that looters had been tunneling into this restricted area to steal precious artifacts.
In 2017, the ongoing police investigation led archaeologists to a room in a once-grand villa.
-[ Speaking Italian ] -They've worked very hard the last few years, using tunnels to get to our excavation site.
And we can clearly see all of those tunnels.
-The tunnels, some as long as 200 feet, led from inside present-day homes built atop the buried ruins.
At night, using lanterns and lamps, the looters broke through walls, looking for valuable objects to sell on the black market.
-The police had inspected all the tunnels and found damaged frescoes, as well as fragments of objects in the tunnels.
There's no doubt that there was looting here.
They tried to remove wall paintings.
-Working closely with police and local prosecutors, archeologists began the careful process of excavating the site.
In December 2018, after nearly a year of painstaking work, they revealed a startling discovery.
-This room was the stable of a large villa.
-Using the technique developed more than 150 years ago by Pompeii's then-director of excavations, Giuseppe Fiorelli, the team filled a void in the ash layer with plaster, and made a perfect cast of a horse.
-We were able to create a mold of the first horse.
Fortunately, this horse remained intact, but the other one was probably broken up by these tunnels.
-The team was still able to make a partial cast of the second horse, and uncovered evidence that the horses were bridled and saddled.
-At the height of the eruption, it seems they may have been saddled up for flight and unable to leave.
Under the other horse, it looks like a bag for whatever the animal was carrying, or maybe it had been loaded in preparation for escaping.
However, they couldn't escape, because the pyroclastic flow was much quicker.
[ Horse neighs ] -Over the next two years, the team continued to excavate the stable.
The villa where the horses were found is located in what was once Pompeii's prime agricultural land.
Large vineyards and farm complexes served as second homes for the city's elite.
And many had wine cellars and presses on site.
It was a city flowing with wine.
One of the best preserved of these homes is the Villa of the Mysteries, with its replica wine press and its signature frescoes.
To modern archeologists, these large villas -- owned by the rich, worked by the poor -- are potential treasure troves of information about life in Pompeii.
December 2020 -- at the villa where the horses were found, the team excavates an area just outside the stable door.
After making plaster casts of collapsed roof beams, they dig down further, reaching a depth of 20 feet.
A large object begins to emerge from the ash.
♪♪ Archeologists can tell it's a significant artifact.
But what exactly have they found?
Scientists study laser scans that capture the outline of the metal object.
♪♪ Eventually, a theory emerges.
-Some elements are being uncovered that lead us to believe this is a two-wheeled chariot.
-The term "chariot" immediately calls to mind the two-wheeled carts used in both battle and the heart-pounding races that thrilled the Roman world.
These wheeled platforms were usually pulled by teams of four horses.
Or perhaps what archeologists have uncovered is just a humble transport wagon, like several others found in Pompeii over the years.
-We're really fortunate to have this reconstruction of a two-wheeled cart found in the stable of the House of Menander.
You could imagine leaving the bed open like this and carrying large amounts of foodstuffs -- of grain, of produce -- from the countryside, or these large containers of wine, these amphorae.
We should also, perhaps, even imagine this leaving the city.
Instead of full of food, we should think of it full of the waste of the city, the ash from the baths, the human and animal waste that collects in the city, and all manner of broken things that need to get out.
♪♪ -There are two metal elements -- iron elements.
♪♪ -This room is adjacent to a large stable where the remains of three horses were found in 2018.
♪♪ So, this place was most likely used to park, so to say, a chariot.
And we can identify a portico which opened up onto an unroofed courtyard.
-Bridled horses, a chariot parked in a portico.
Are these the elements of an ancient attempt to escape the unfolding disaster?
Whatever type of vehicle this turns out to be, it was part of what was a vibrant and bustling urban center before the eruption.
It would have been among an estimated 10,000 carts and wagons rolling around the city.
-In the streets of Pompeii, carts were moving constantly up and down the streets, filling them with the activity of daily life.
-The paved streets still bear the scars of all those ancient wheels.
Professor Eric Poehler is an expert at understanding the patterns left behind by this relentless flow of traffic.
He's discovered that ancient Pompeii had a very modern solution to preventing traffic jams on its narrow streets.
-We actually have the evidence for telling us that there's a one-way system of traffic here in the ancient city.
At this intersection, we can stop and look at how the ruts here on one side, which you can see -- how the carts were coming along, making this rut, but also hitting the stepping stone here and carving down into it, showing us that there's a strong interaction between the carts and the road.
But look here.
This evidence shows us that we can actually see which direction the cart was moving.
Imagine a giant wheel hitting this stone.
And as it hits the stone, slides across it, cutting into it, making a smooth area along the top and a less-smooth area along the bottom, until finally it leaves contact with the stone and turns to the right.
This can only happen when carts are coming from behind me.
-With so many animal-drawn vehicles, many buildings in Pompeii had their own stables, similar to the one where the new chariot has been found.
-We can see how this leads into a corridor that takes the cart all the way here into the stable, where the cart would have been detached from its animals, and the animals led back into the parts of the rear, where they could probably be given shade and water.
-Ancient Pompeii was alive with the sound of wagon wheels, but what details will the newly discovered chariot add to our picture of life in this ancient city?
♪♪ ♪♪ Inch-by-inch, the work continues.
♪♪ ♪♪ January 2021 -- the then-director of the Pompeii Archeological Park arrives to inspect the progress.
-[ Speaking Italian ] ♪♪ -This is not a two-wheel chariot anymore.
Digging deeper, we have brought to light two more wheels.
-Where is the other wheel?
-And this is the second one?
-Yes, it would seem so.
♪♪ -Also on this side.
And all four wheels have the same diameter, so it's a four-wheel chariot with a decorated back.
Well, they're beautiful.
♪♪ ♪♪ So, are there traces of mineralized wood?
Okay, those are the spokes!
-Any wheeled vehicle would be a major find, but a four-wheeled carriage, heavy with decoration, promises to tell a previously untold part of Pompeii's story.
This looks like an abduction scene.
♪♪ ♪♪ -The prosecutor in charge of the looting investigation arrives to survey the historic discovery.
♪♪ We've been lucky it has not been intercepted by tomb raiders.
We can see their tunnel here.
-After a 60-meter-long tunnel, they got here and brushed against it.
-The tunnel bends here, so it does not touch the chariot.
They just brushed against it and went along to the other side.
Maybe they wanted to reach the stable as they thought that was the richest part of the house, where they might find hidden treasures.
♪♪ As far as I know, this is unprecedented here in Pompeii.
There hasn't ever been anything similar before.
This chariot is really sumptuous.
♪♪ What's more, it matches the harnessed horses we uncovered next door very well.
Someone might have come here to try and harness the horses to escape.
Two of them were harnessed and ready.
Or it might be that one of the horses was trying to escape through one of the openings but didn't manage, and collapsed just there, in front of the entrance.
-Due to the size and complexity of the chariot, archaeologists use every tool at their disposal.
Plaster casts capture the impressions left in the ash by decayed wooden elements, allowing the entire shape and structure to be preserved.
When the site director returns in February, the chariot is almost fully excavated.
♪♪ -It's getting more and more difficult.
Ooh, that's great!
♪♪ So, now it's clear enough how it works, isn't it?
This is the boundary of the chariot, and here it's open.
-The archaeologists have finished uncovering a series of bronze and tin medallions decorating the sides and rear of the chariot.
The decorative elements are now visible.
They show ancient gods of love and figures engaged in erotic scenes.
-She seems to be lying down, so this might be another erotic scene.
This chariot might have been a marriage chariot, rather than a war carriage.
-Nothing like this has ever been found in Pompeii.
It appears to be a ceremonial chariot, or pilentum -- a carriage used by women and in sacred rites.
And this one could have been used for community festivals or marriage rituals.
-Maybe it was ready to be used.
This gives me the creeps.
It's as if everything was ready for a ritual that never happened.
We need to carry on.
There must be more surprises to come.
-Buried for almost 2,000 years, it will now be preserved for the ages, adding intricate detail to the understanding of what life was like for people who lived in Pompeii.
[ Beeping ] -Even though carts have to have been really prevalent in the ancient world, there must have been thousands and thousands of them.
We actually have very few of them recovered from archeology.
And that's because of a simple reason -- they're completely recyclable.
Everything about a cart, from the iron wheels that can be pounded into other things, to the wood that the cart is made out of that can be burned.
That's one of the things that makes even a utilitarian cart very special.
But the new chariot, the new carriage -- it is even more special because it's meant to draw your attention.
It's the Lamborghini of this ancient world.
So, for example, the front wheels pivot and make it so turning around sharp corners is easier.
They also have the body of the cart narrow in, so the wheels can turn further underneath of it without hitting the cart itself.
And finally, and really interestingly, we see that the cart itself is well-prepared for the comfort of the people riding in it.
-The chariot might have weighed 2,000 pounds when fully loaded.
To make its way through the city, it would have had to negotiate the narrow, obstacle-filled streets atop giant iron wheels.
-We should imagine a cart coming into the city, rolling up the hill, and sliding its axle just high enough over this stone, and sliding its two wheels on either side.
This is going to compress the traffic into this one location, and it's going to make more and more of the ruts that famously mark the streets here in Pompeii.
-As it rolled down the street, past Pompeii's bustling shops and squares, this ornate chariot would have undoubtedly turned heads.
-We know from ancient literature that very often these ancient carts, and particularly these kinds that are so elaborate, so ornate, were meant to draw attention.
Some people would be just jealous.
Some people would be dumbfounded.
"I've never seen anything like that before."
And still others, undoubtedly would judge the person driving it as being a bit amoral, of being too much of a showoff.
And you might just appreciate what an interesting vehicle that is as it rolls past and then down the street and around the corner.
-"This is the moment!
It's the moment!"
-In Pompeii's urban core, the team has discovered a remarkably preserved roadside tavern -- evidence of a thriving street-food scene.
♪♪ ♪♪ This was a fast-food restaurant of its time, with jars of wine, known as amphorae, leaning against the counter as if they've just arrived by cart from the vineyards of the villas beyond the city walls.
♪♪ This type of restaurant, which served hot and cold food, as well as drinks, is known as a thermopolium.
It's not the first of its kind to be unearthed in Pompeii.
Incredibly, the city had more than 160 of these eateries at the time of the eruption.
But this is the first one that will be excavated and studied using all the scientific tools available to 21st-century scientists.
Professor Steven Ellis, an expert on restaurants and retail shops of the Roman world, is excited to see what the Italian archaeologists will discover.
-Along with shops that are selling food and drink, we have shops for shoes, shops for clothes, shops for jewelry.
These kinds of spaces really give us a chance to get in at the heart of urban life and at the heart of the urban economy, as well.
-As in modern times, for a café like this, location is everything.
-One of the great things about a thermopolium like this is it's positioned right here in the heart of the city, right at the intersection of two of the busiest streets in all of Pompeii.
What that gives them an opportunity to do is to set up their bar counter here at this corner, facing out onto all of that traffic and really attracting all that attention of all the people going in every different direction.
-The abundance of these streetside taverns suggests that people in Pompeii loved to dine out, and is emblematic of a larger trend that was changing the cityscape of the Roman world in the 1st century.
It's an era Ellis hails as the golden age of Roman retail.
-So, as you walk through the city of Pompeii in 79 A.D., what we'll find ourselves surrounded by is all these shops and all these thermopolia.
But it wasn't always like this.
These are the products of a great big economic boom that's sweeping through Pompeii and, indeed, other towns at the time and transforming their landscape.
So, where once there are a lot of workshops around us, the sights and sounds and tinkering of making of objects, now, from the 1st century A.D., we start to see that being replaced with shops and bars and the sights and sounds of people consuming food and drink.
-The newly uncovered thermopolium has one of the most intricately painted counters archaeologists have ever seen.
Having an attractive bar or counter was key to the success of any Pompeiian roadside eatery.
-So, here we are at the front of one of Pompeii's many thermopolia.
It has its counter at the front here, on this main street running through Pompeii.
And it practically kind of invites you to come on inside.
Originally, it would have been made of wood, but these ones, by now, in the 1st century A.D., there's such a confidence and such a commitment to retailing that they're now making them not only out of masonry but out of marble -- all these big, beautiful pieces of marble that have been cut and lined on the top of the surface here.
Sunk into the counter are these vessels -- these earthenware pots that were used for holding all sorts of things -- all the kinds of foods that they're trying to sell here, but also the day's takings.
One of these had contained in it over a thousand coins from the use of the shop in here.
So these thermopolia are a real kind of central part to the world of the street.
These are the lifeblood of Pompeiian street life.
So there's all this moving traffic going both ways, up and down the street here, and they're stopping in not only at these bars, to be able to grab something to eat and something to drink, but they're also stopping in here to catch up with their friends and their associates.
-December 2020 -- The Italian archeologists have been working on the thermopolium site for more than a year.
It has turned out to be one of the most beautiful and perfectly preserved shops in all of Pompeii, offering new insights into daily life in the doomed city.
-We have found this bottle, and on the bottom, there was a roof tile.
And under the roof tile, there was a lump.
The analysis proved it was fragments of fava beans.
Ground fava beans might have served as a whitener for wine, which was common at that time.
♪♪ -But more was still to come.
After opening one of the jars of the bar, we smelt a very strong smell of wine.
It's really extraordinary.
We might call it olfactory archeology.
♪♪ -That distinctive smell coming from the dolium during the excavation works, it was a unique experience for us.
And it's weird, considering that the dolium had been sealed for over 2,000 years.
♪♪ -We're now analyzing the contents of these containers, which were sealed by the cinders of the eruption.
Bones of animals are emerging which were apparently used for food preparation.
Analyzing the whole contents, we'll finally learn what people used to eat in Pompeii, in exceptional detail -- much greater than before.
♪♪ -We have a series of fragments which were probably part of preparations contained in the jars when the volcano erupted.
They used to mix different animals, what we probably wouldn't normally do today -- goat or sheep meat -- it's not clear which one -- fish, a land snail, and, as a representative of poultry, a fragment of a duck bone.
-A lot of the houses around here, particularly the smaller ones and the smaller apartments and the smaller rooms that people are renting out above the nicer houses on the ground floor, they don't have cooking facilities, they don't have cooking provisions.
So if you want to get that cooked meal, you've got to come down to a place like this.
♪♪ -What's interesting is, the bar of this particular thermopolium shows incredible paintings for the first time.
On one side, there is a Nereid, a character in marine mythology, riding a seahorse.
This was probably a homage to the area where the thermopolium was installed, which was a little square with a fountain.
♪♪ -The decorating panels on the fronts of this thermopolium are particularly intriguing.
In this panel, the bar itself is represented, with the same bend it actually has.
♪♪ Then, there is this row of amphorae which we've actually found here during the first stages of our excavation works -- just here, standing in front of the bar.
So, this panel was meant to communicate something so that passers-by would know immediately where they were and what they might expect to find here, with a very realistic representation.
-Not all the animals pictured on the counter were actually on the menu.
This image calls to mind one of Pompeii's most famous mosaics, which warns "Beware of dog" in Latin.
-There is a dog on a chain -- a new, very interesting "Cave Canem," similar to the more famous one, which was probably here somewhere as part of the shop, to guard against unwanted visitors.
A close inspection of the painting reveals a lighter side of life in ancient Pompeii.
Like modern bathroom walls, these counters attracted the musings of graffiti artists.
-In the upper frame of this picture, there's a graffiti that reads, "Nicia cinaede cacator."
Nicia is a person's name of Greek origin.
"Cacator" literally means "defecator," so someone who defecates.
So, the sentence means, "Defecating Nicia, you are a pervert."
It was undoubtedly graffitied here after the bar was painted, not by laborers, but rather by someone whose intent was to insult someone who worked here or maybe even the owner of this thermopolium.
♪♪ -Behind the thermopolium counter, the team has made a somber discovery of human bones.
♪♪ -I'm now clearing the remains that have been found behind the bar.
Presumably, they are the remains of human beings who were inside the room when the volcano erupted.
♪♪ ♪♪ In this other spot, we didn't find dispersed bones, but consecutive bones, which means they are exactly where the person died that morning in 79 A.D. What you see here is the niche of a bed, and here are traces of some organic, iron material, which was probably the bed.
It appears to be a male, 45 to 50 years old.
♪♪ -As the excavation nears completion, the artifacts are preserved and catalogued.
All this bone and clay has added flesh and blood to the story of Pompeii's final days -- days in which brightly painted signage lured rich and poor alike to the busy roadside for a drink of local wine, or perhaps a taste of snail-and-fish stew.
-You really see how this worked as a space where images, people, and actions were part of one whole complex that we are trying to reconstruct.
That's really the idea.
Our main interest is not, you know, ancient art or ancient skeletons as a single element, but the lifeworld of these people.
[ Indistinct shouting ] [ Bell clanging ] -The lives cut short by the terror of Vesuvius were centered around the daily activities of urban existence.
This was the Roman world of gladiator games and raucous street festivals.
[ Indistinct shouting ] ♪♪ -Really fantastic.
♪♪ -This monument, right at the doorstep of the Pompeii Archeological Park headquarters, commemorates one such festival thrown for the city by one of its richest men.
One can easily imagine the recently excavated carriage rolling down the paved streets in a ceremonial procession -- perhaps what it was doing in the days or hours before the sky turned dark and the vehicle disappeared into the ash that would conceal it for two millennia.
-When the eruption started, the chariot was there, ready to be used, or it had just been used.
Then, it started raining the pumice stones, but the chariot was in a portico, so it was not immediately covered by this material.
It eventually accumulated on the roofs.
In some cases, we know that the roofs started to collapse.
The arrival of pyroclastic shock waves with ashes entered into the portico and covered the chariot and eventually become the reason why the chariot is so well-conserved, almost as it was in the moment of the eruption.
-Freed from the ash, the chariot can now be analyzed with such accuracy that digital artists have been able to re-create what it might have looked like on the day of the eruption.
-Looks, it's beautiful.
You can clearly see the break.
-It is a bit like what I have here.
Pompeii findings are usually tools, objects of everyday life, from ceramics to metal, but it's the first time we've found a chariot in this state of preservation, which is complete.
[ Conversation in Italian ] -Right now, I'm just removing the excess chalk and ashes from these metal sheets.
This is to slow down corrosion that would otherwise attack much faster by retaining moisture on the surface.
Nonetheless, I'm trying to remove as many ashes as possible in order to prevent humidity from pursuing the corrosion process.
-Anything we find here in Pompeii is covered with these ashes.
All the exhibits on this table come from the same side of the chariot, which is the backboard.
These are the medallions that we can see in this composition.
-The light alloy medallions are also in a fairly stable condition during the excavation phase.
We only secured them with this sort of Band-Aid where it was absolutely necessary to avoid fragments from falling off.
There was silver here.
Look, it's beautiful!
-We are discovering this live.
-You're witnessing a discovery!
[ Chuckles ] -The restoration of the chariot adds vivid detail to the understanding of the city elite's lifestyle.
But further excavations are shedding new light on how the other half lived.
Adjacent to the stable where the horses were found, and just off the portico where the chariot rested, the team has uncovered a tiny room.
Only 170 square feet, it has three wooden beds, one of which appears to have been for a child.
Archaeologists speculate this is the bedroom of the villa's servants, possibly enslaved.
Perhaps a small family.
It seems to have also doubled as a storage room, with clay pots crammed into the corners.
-What little we know is through the official sources, which are always, or almost always, from the point of view of the wealthy elite.
And here, instead, we see the life of the slaves and servants, the people of a lower economic status.
-And leaning against one of the beds, evidence suggesting that whoever occupied this small room was also responsible for the maintenance of the magnificent vehicle just steps away.
-Here is the steering mechanism.
Ultimately, it was used to connect the chariot to the horses that were found just a few steps away from us.
So, really this room served both as a resting place and the storage room where recently used objects were placed.
Let's also remember that we found wheat kernels on the chariot, meaning it was either ready to be used or had just been used.
And for this reason, a steering mechanism had been set down nearby.
Indeed, the part has been exceptionally preserved, because, on this side, we can view this whole set of twines that was so exciting to us to see emerging from the earth while digging it out, day by day.
Along with it, there's a whole system of ropes and planks that are held together by this iron ring of which we can see only a trace.
Therefore, such a steering mechanism is precisely the element we needed to figure out how this vibrant and one-of-a-kind ceremonial chariot, found in the portico next to us, works.
♪♪ ♪♪ -Down a nearby hallway, the building is hiding one final secret.
This corridor beneath the villa had steps connecting it to the upper floor.
♪♪ In a room off to the side, archeologists have found a void in the ash layer.
[ Conversation in Italian ] Further investigation reveals the skeletal remains of two men.
-We have spotted two victims in a villa in the outskirts of Pompeii.
The hollows left in the ashes by the decomposed bodies were intact.
♪♪ -We haven't found something like this for years.
We are now finally able not only to take the mold but also to gather a complete set of data which allow us to look deeper, compared with usual discoveries.
Once these data are collected and a laser scan analysis made, we have poured plaster into the body hollows.
In this case we have poured as much as 95 liters of plaster, and we have been very lucky, as we initially thought the hollows were not so well-preserved.
-The casts capture the ancient impressions of clothes that have long since disintegrated, including the folds of woolen cloaks.
This is a significant find.
It suggests the victims were dressed for cool weather.
Just like the date found on the wall in the initial excavations, it points to the disaster having happened in the fall, not, as long believe, the heat of August.
-Indeed, we got the entire body shapes.
Look, you can see the full footprint!
And not only the drapery, the fibers themselves are visible.
They have been preserved so well!
-Buried in ash at least 6 1/2 feet thick, the two men were likely trying to escape when they were overwhelmed by a pyroclastic surge, their hands and feet clenched in a manner typical of death by thermal shock.
-This is a high-definition surveying laser scanner.
The main feature of this model is that it performs a real-scale scan, and when I click on each cluster, I can see any dimension I need at all times.
♪♪ How useful is it?
First of all, we can make a historical record of the various stages of the excavation works.
We can document all the levels descending down to this one, where we found the corpses.
3-D scanning represents a considerable added value as the archeologists of the future will have more accurate information about what we are doing today.
♪♪ -We have worked with a cross-disciplinary approach.
We'll perform further analyses.
This means that many sets of data that risked getting lost in the past have now been recorded since the start, and they tell us how the victims were dressed, as well as providing some crucial information about the eruption.
The latest discoveries suggest, for example, that it happened in October and not in August, and these molds prove it with relative certainty.
One of the victims wore a very thick woolen cloak, as the warp and weft of the collar suggest.
So we have a huge amount of information which is useful to have an idea of how the city was made up.
-The intricate clothing worn by one of the victims indicates he was a man of high status.
The other man's clothes are simpler, and his compressed vertebrae suggest a life of manual labor.
-Two really impressive bodies, which made us feel very emotional and caused deep sympathy in the entire team.
We've determined that one was a young man in his 20s, 150 to 155 centimeters tall, probably a slave, as his bones show marks and traces of heavy work.
Next to him is an older man, in his 40s, probably his master, or dominus.
We're not sure, but he was certainly of a different social status.
To see the past re-emerging from the ashes in this intense and sometimes intact way completely overwhelms me.
-One can speculate about who these men were.
The owner of the villa, accompanied by one of his servants?
Perhaps they were attempting to get to the horses when disaster struck.
-From what we can see, at least 10 centimeters of ashes are below the molds.
So these people died during the second pyroclastic surge, which was certainly the most violent one.
-And caused the death of those who were hoping to escape when it was quiet between the first and second surge.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Here, we are dealing with faces, expressions -- desperate facial expressions.
Knowing that we could do something to cast light onto something that had lived in oblivion for almost 2,000 years has really inspired me to extract these bodies and bring them back into history.
In this way, they're going to live forever.
♪♪ ♪♪ -The recent discoveries only reinforce the connection we feel with these people of the ancient past.
The new plaster casts demonstrate that life in Pompeii was not so different from today.
The stunning, new finds at Pompeii have given us a clearer picture of urban life in the 1st century, possibly rewritten history about the date of the eruption, and allowed us to reimagine the final hours of a vibrant and surprisingly modern street scene.
It was just around noon.
[ Seagull calling ] As usual, the city center was crowded with carts navigating narrow one-way streets.
Workers were still rebuilding houses and repairing roads from earlier earthquakes.
Along the roadside, café proprietors competed for customers, with the promise of hot food, and wine freshly delivered from the surrounding countryside.
Perhaps a ceremonial carriage had just returned to the stables of a suburban villa, where a family of servants waited to service the vehicle, and their wealthy masters retired upstairs.
-On the day of the eruption life in the street would have been carrying on as it had for years before.
But at that moment, we should imagine that life stopped, not necessarily in terror immediately, but first just in confusion -- what was happening on the mountain?
-The sky is darkening, and what's really happening for them is something that is beyond any kind of comprehension.
-We would have seen the pedestrians beginning to run and probably the mule drivers running with their mules.
The crowd probably actually then stopped most of the vehicles from going anywhere because they would have thronged the streets.
-So the household here, who's running a bar like this, they have a choice to make.
They're either going to flee with lots of others who are trying to flee out of the city, or as we see with other kinds of places, they're also trying to take refuge in buildings like this, maybe holed out in one of the back rooms behind here.
-Ultimately, the vast majority of Pompeii's inhabitants chose to flee.
But 2,000 people stayed behind, only to die in the streets and inside buildings.
The haunting question is "Why?"
Why did so many choose to remain, when so many others escaped?
-Here in modern Pompeii, people walking around, if the eruption went off, would grab their cellphones and they'd call their family to find help, to find each other, and to think of a way to escape together.
But in the ancient world, obviously this wasn't possible.
So, what would people do?
They'd think, "My husband's in the forum.
My children are with their grandmother.
I've got to bring them all together.
I'm at home.
I hope they'll come here."
If they didn't come, would you leave?
Would you try to find them?
Or would you try to escape?
So many people probably died in ancient Pompeii simply because they couldn't find the people they loved, and they wouldn't abandon them to their fate.
-And so it is with the archeologists tasked with preserving Pompeii.
Rather than abandon the city to its fate, they continue the work of generations.
With tools never dreamed of by those who came before them, they carry on in solemn pursuit of all the stories still buried in the ash.
O0 C1 Next time, the collapse of the Roman Empire.