Carbonized Legacy: Unearthing Roman Life Through Vesuvius-Preserved Furniture and Artifacts

Many of the ancient Roman furnishings we have knowledge about were conserved in cities engulfed by the Mount Vesuvius eruption in 79 CE. Instead of being incinerated, these pieces of furniture underwent carbonization due to the elevated temperatures, resulting in the preservation of various wooden artifacts.

In addition to furniture, this remarkable preservation extended to other artifacts such as frescoes, mosaics, and even casts of human and animal bodies. This extraordinary snapshot of Roman life has provided archaeologists with invaluable insights into Roman society, culture, and daily life, with Pompeii and Herculaneum being two of the most well-known cities to have been entombed by the volcanic eruption.

Vegetarian Gladiators: The Overweight Warriors of Ancient Rome

Roman gladiators, contrary to popular belief, were not heavily muscular but rather carried excess weight. Their diets were predominantly plant-based, much like the majority of the Roman population. Meat was considered a luxury item and not a dietary staple.

Gladiators were often referred to as “hordearii,” or barley men, due to their high-carbohydrate diet, which consisted of grains, legumes, and vegetables. This diet provided them with the necessary energy for their rigorous training and battles while the extra body fat offered some protection against cuts and wounds. Additionally, they consumed a calcium-rich drink made from ashes to fortify their bones and reduce the risk of fractures during combat.

The Self-Healing Power of Roman Concrete

Roman engineers created structures that have withstood the test of time thanks to the use of lime clasts in their concrete. Unlike modern concrete, which often deteriorates within a few decades, Roman concrete exhibits remarkable durability due to its self-healing properties from lime clasts. As a result, ancient wonders like the Pantheon and aqueducts still stand today, after more than two thousand years.

In fact, recent studies have shed light on the chemical reaction that makes Roman concrete so resilient. When seawater seeps into the concrete, it reacts with the lime and volcanic ash mixture, creating a crystalline substance that actually reinforces the concrete. This explains why many ancient Roman structures built near the sea, such as the Port of Ostia, have remained intact for centuries despite the constant onslaught of saltwater.

Furthermore, Roman concrete wasn’t just strong and durable, it was also more sustainable than modern concrete. The Romans made their concrete by mixing locally sourced materials like volcanic ash, lime, and stones, reducing transportation costs and carbon emissions. In contrast, modern concrete often requires large amounts of energy to produce and transport, contributing to climate change.

Overall, Roman concrete was a marvel of ancient engineering that continues to impress and inspire us today.