CT Scans Expose Extraordinary Dental Health in Ancient Pompeii

In the heart of Pompeii, CT scans are working their magic on the plaster casts of the Mount Vesuvius victims, offering a fascinating glimpse into the lives of these ancient inhabitants. Contrary to popular belief, preliminary results reveal not only great teeth but also remarkable overall health among the Pompeiians before the catastrophic volcanic eruption.

Dispelling Hedonistic Stereotypes

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Well-Preserved Teeth: Examination of a Pompeii Plaster Cast. ( Napoli/Giino/Ropi/ZUMA Press/Newscom )

The common perception of Romans as hedonists indulging in excess is challenged by the surprising revelation that the ancient Pompeiians boasted excellent dental records. Elisa Vanacore, a dental expert, emphasized, “They ate better than we did and have really good teeth.” This unexpected discovery prompts a reassessment of dietary habits in 79 AD.

A Nutrient-Rich Diet and Its Impact

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CT Scans Uncover Secrets beneath Pompeii Victims’ Plaster Casts. ( BigStockPhoto )

The Pompeiians’ dental well-being is attributed to their diet rich in fruits and vegetables, low in sugars. Beyond diet, the presence of high fluorine levels in the local air and water near the volcano raises questions about its role—whether beneficial or detrimental—in the dental and bone health of the Pompeiians, contingent on the quantity consumed.

Unveiling Secrets With Cutting-Edge Technology

Revealing Pompeii Victim’s Scan Results. ( The Archaeological Site of Pompeii. )

As part of a multidisciplinary team comprising archaeologists, computer engineers, radiologists, and orthodontists, the researchers are utilizing advanced CT scanners. In tandem with these scanners, a contrast dye mimicking muscles and skin accentuates the features of the victims, offering vivid details about their lives.

The Challenge of Plaster Casting

Giuseppe Fiorelli’s 1866 plaster casting, initially aimed at moving and preserving fragile bodies, inadvertently delayed the analysis of organic matter until now. The team’s dedication to overcoming challenges underscores the significance of their findings.

Tomography in Archaeology

Tomography, commonly used in hospitals, is making strides in archaeology. The 16-layer CAT technology employed in this study addresses the density challenges posed by the chalk used for the cast technique, providing detailed insights into the remains.

Limitations and Cranial Injuries

Despite technological advancements, the CT scanners’ limitations—allowing only individuals up to a 70 cm diameter—result in scans primarily of heads and upper chests. These scans reveal severe cranial injuries, undoubtedly a consequence of falling rubble during Vesuvius’s eruption.

Beyond Humans: Animal Scanning Unveils Additional Layers

In an intriguing turn, the scientists have extended their scanning efforts to animals, complementing their human-centric results. This holistic approach promises a more comprehensive understanding of the Pompeiian ecosystem.


The revelations from the new scans of ancient Pompeii victims challenge preconceived notions, offering a nuanced understanding of their health and lifestyle. This multidisciplinary endeavor, blending technology and archaeology, not only unveils the past but also shapes our perceptions of antiquity.

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