Pompeii: Back from the Dead (2011)

Sometimes I have those nights where I wake up in the middle of the night fully alert. I never know if something startled me or if I just reached my sleep quota for the week or what; but the end result always is that I am wide awake in the wee hours of the morning. Thankfully this only happens to me once or twice a year, but yesterday was one of those exceptions.


I tried playing some Sky Rim and eventually became the leader of both the mage’s university and the Companions; yet, still I remained awake while my husband and pets were blissfully unaware of my virtual badassness. Bored, I decided to turn to Netflix. Because I thought I may eventually end up going back to sleep (hey, it was only 2 am), I wanted to watch something…less energetic. OK, OK, I was trying to find something dull to put me in a solid slumber. Browsing the watch instantly titles, I thought that perhaps Pompeii:Back from the Dead would be just the right fit.


Pompeii: Back from the Dead was not an Italian spin-off of The Walking Dead. Nor was it the stuffy documentary I imagined it would be. Instead, this Discovery Channel special investigates the lives of the people in Pompeii before the volcano destroyed the city and what happened during the eruption. I have to admit, it was rather interesting.


I have always had a fascination with Pompeii. As a kid, I remember reading a National Geographic issue about the ancient city. I was intrigued by the glossy photos of skeletons and plaster casts of people frozen in time as they tried to escape the tons of ash and rock that annihilated the once-modern city. I guess it should be no surprise that Pompeii: Back from the Dead caught my eye.


Admittedly, I wasn’t a huge fan of the host/narrator/guide/whatever-you-want-to-call-him. I didn’t dislike him, but I just had a hard time connecting with him. However, once the show started up and the focus turned to the story of Pompeii, I forgot all about him.


While I am sure Pompeii: Back from the Dead doesn’t really cover anything “new” on the topic, it is still a good overview about the days leading up to the devastating eruption. When the site wasfirst discovered, scientists at the time filled in the spaces left in the ash by the decomposed bodies with plaster. Apparently, they unknowingly destroyed the bones in the process, which left today’s forensic scientists little to deal with.



However, a cellar was discovered with 54 skeletons untouched by the ash. This is what the show spends its time focusing on–what can be learned about the ancient city from the bones of people who lived and died there (to clarify, these 54 people also died in the eruption, but were killed by the gas instead of the ash).


When faced with the images (plastered or skeletal) of people (and animals) in their last moments of life, it’s difficult not to be saddened. One can imagine the fear and the helplessness they must have felt. Pompeii: Back from the Dead does not dwell too much on this. Instead, it focuses on the lives of the people in the city and the early signs that the eruption was coming (although Mt Vesuvius had not erupted in a long time so many of the residents would not have known it was a volcano).


If the lives of ancient people or historical natural disasters is of interest to you, this show may be a good one to check out. It’s running time clocks in at under an hour, so it’s a concise look at one of the most famous disasters in history.


Thanks for reading and happy holidays! Open-mouthed smile


Score: C+

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