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Death Comes to Oplontis: Victims of Mt. Vesuvius Reveal Life in 79 AD

Kristina Killgrove (Anthropology, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill)
Kristina Killgrove photographed in ossuary in Paris catacombs
Friday, November 1, 2019 - 3:30pm
Paccar 295

Numerous urban centers in the Bay of Naples were completely destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. Pompeii and Herculaneum are the most famous of these, but other areas were also affected and are less understood, even today, because of their location underneath modern development. The villa complex of Oplontis is one of these. Partial excavations in the 1980s found more than 50 skeletons together in one room, killed by the catastrophic volcanic eruption. None of the skeletons had been studied, however, until 2017, when Dr. Kristina Killgrove led a team of archaeologists finished the old excavation and began to analyze the human remains. After two field seasons and one lab season, this project has revealed information about Roman life and death in 79 AD. This talk will present the latest information on the Oplontis skeletons, from demography to diet to disease.

Dr. Kristina Killgrove is an award-winning science writer and archaeologist based in Chapel Hill, NC. Her research focuses on the analysis of human skeletal remains from Imperial-era Italy, and her ongoing project at Oplontis near Naples involves the excavation, osteological analysis, and biochemical analysis of people killed in the catastrophic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. Killgrove writes a regular column about archaeology for Forbes, and she is teaching anthropology courses this fall at UNC Chapel Hill.

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