About Mummy Tombs

Bodies from the Ash:

Life and Death in Ancient Pompeii

Bodies from the Ash tells the story of the victims of Pompeii. After Mt. Vesuvius erupted on August 24 and 25, AD 79, Pompeii lay buried until 12 feet of volcanic ash and debris for the next 1700 years. Some attempts were made to excavate the town, but no one was certain of its exact location. Finally, in the mid-1700s, the town was rediscovered. Along with the desired treasures (statues, marble, jewelry) that excavators sought for wealthy patrons, workers also uncovered many skeletons of people who could not escape. At first, these skeletons were placed in locations within the Pompeian ruins as curiosity objects. Later, under the direction of Giuseppe Fiorelli, the hollow space around some skeletons was used as a mold. Workers poured plaster of  Paris into the cavity; when the outer shell of the mold was chipped away, the plaster body of a person remained—an imprint of that person’s last moment alive. 

Reviews and Honors

School Library Journal*starred review (December 2005):

"...In this well-researched account, Deem retells the story of this devastating eruption, combining a lively text with photographs of the bones and artifacts that have been unearthed through the years. In 1863, an excavator discovered a fascinating way to study human remains. As bodies covered in hot ash and enveloped by volcanic material decayed, spaces were left around the skeletons. After the hollow areas were filled with plaster, the surrounding debris was chipped away, resulting in detailed plaster casts that preserved imprints of the people's dying moments, showing their facial expressions and body positions as well as their clothing and possessions. Deem explains how scientists have used these molds and other evidence to piece together the life styles and final moments of some of the victims, and conveys these heart-wrenching tales. Dramatic photographs of the casts capture the horror of this event and help readers to envision day-to-day life in this civilization. With incredibly engrossing images and narrative, this is a powerful and poignant piece of nonfiction."

Best Books for Young Adults 2006

2006 Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies

2006 Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students K-12


By studying these individuals and the possessions that they had with them, Fiorelli and later scientists attempted to piece together their stories. Bodies from the Ash describes what they have found and the stories they have told. 


Chapter 1. August 24 and 25, AD 79

The eruption of Vesuvius and the destruction of Pompeii


Chapter 2. Rediscovering Pompeii

The discovery of Pompeii and the search for treasures in the ruins


Chapter 3. The Plaster Bodies of Pompeii

The creation of the plaster bodies from hollow cavities found in the volcanic debris


Chapter 4. Lives from the Ash

The stories archaeologists have told about human and animal remains found at the following Pompeian locations: the House of the Cryptoporticus, the Garden of the Fugitives, the House of the Golden Bracelet, the House of Menander, and the House of Orpheus


Chapter 5. Herculaneum’s Fate

The stories related to the human remains found at Herculaneum, a nearby city destroyed by Vesuvius


Chapter 6. A Final Excavation

The most dramatic change in the creation of plaster casts and the state of Pompeii today


You can find more information about this book on on my author website.