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CAT scan reveals Pompeii victims had perfect teeth

A multi-layer CAT scan on 18 of Pompeii's body casts revealed that the victims of the disaster had perfect teeth - barring cavities and other pathologies that can only be revealed with different medical examinations - and fractured craniums.

CAT scan reveals Pompeii victims had perfect teeth
A new project is performing CAT scans on the plaster casts 
of the victims of Pompeii [Credit: ciro de luca]
The analysis of the casts, which were restored in August, therefore debunks two long-held myths on ancient Romans.

The findings support the inhabitants of the merchant city at the foothill of Mount Vesuvius had no immediate discernible need for dentists and likely died from head injuries caused by crumbling roofs or walls during volcanic event in 79 AD rather than suffocation.

CAT scan reveals Pompeii victims had perfect teeth
Computerised axial tomography (CAT) machines, also known as CT scanners,
 are used because they produce detailed 3D models of the remains. In particular,
 tomography is the process of creating a 2D image or 'slice' of a 3D object. 
They are used by doctors to examine the body one slice at a time to pinpoint
 specific areas, and the same method is used when studying
 the remains [Credit: AFP/Getty Images]
The 16-layer machine was loaned by Philips Healthcare and also gathered data on the casts of two animals, most likely a dog and a boar.

"This project offers an infinite range of approaches to researchers," Giovanni Babino, the radiologist in charge of the scans, told AGI.

CAT scan reveals Pompeii victims had perfect teeth
In these scans the skull of victim is brought to life using a specific contrast dye
 that mimics the appearance of muscles and skin. These scans help accentuate
 the victim's teeth, but their empty eye sockets and collapsed nose
 give them a macabre feel [Credit: EPA]
"From an analysis of the inhabitants' lifestyles or their teeth or other medical factors, to reconstructing the history of the casts themselves and the restoration work they have undergone."

The multi-layer scans were carried out by the special superintendency on Tuesday morning through an MX16 machine equipped with a 5.0 MHU CT tube, producing 3D volumes which, through post-processing and specific software and hardware wanted by Babino, will allow a 3D reconstruction of the casts' skeletons and dental arches to be made.

CAT scan reveals Pompeii victims had perfect teeth
The boy seen here was discovered alongside an adult male and female, 
presumed to be his parents, as well as a younger child who appeared 
to be asleep on his mother's lap [Credit: EPA]
The superintendency also plans to create a database for researchers to use, providing a 'fingerprint' of the casts, which now evidence years of interventions to reinforce the plaster through wood and metal. Many of the casts were made in the 19th century.

The examination of the teeth, overseen by specialised dentist Elisa Vanacore, was also crucial for archaeological reasons, as it provided information on the victims' lifestyles and on their age and gender. The casts were of men, women and a child.

CAT scan reveals Pompeii victims had perfect teeth
The spine, ribs and pelvis of another victim (left) have also been revealed by the project. 
The right-hand image has marked out the pelvis, femurs and knee bones of a further
 victim. The bones are shown in various colours to make them easier to
 distinguish from one another [Credit: EPA]
They were selected among the 86 casts restored this summer, 20 of which were then displayed at the Pompeii dig site.

They are also being scanned by lasers to produce 1:1 scale replicas in polymers derived from corn starch.

Source: AGI [October 01, 2015]

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