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Pompeii: The New Dig | Preview (BBC Two)

Pompeii: The New Dig is a new three-part series for BBC Two & iPlayer which offers a fascinating insight into the most extensive archaeological excavation in the ancient city of Pompeii for a generation.

With unique access to the dig, the cameras follow a team of archaeologists as they excavate an entire city block in the north of the city uncovering new buildings, artefacts, frescoes and the incredible stories of the people who lived there and what happened to them during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.

Told through the drama of the dig and stylised fresco-inspired animations, Pompeii: The New Dig paints a vivid picture of what life was like in Pompeii before the eruption, as well as the horror faced by the residents as the volcano erupted.

From a commercial bakery and laundrette to a stunning wealthy villa and a 2000-year-old ‘pizza fresco’, the programme reveals a series of incredible finds which will adds new layers to how we think about life in the ancient city.

In the first episode the archaeological team make a shocking discovery of three bodies, in a small room next to the bakery. As they painstakingly excavate the crushed skeletons, it becomes clear a collapsing roof killed them. As volcanologist Professor Chris Jackson reveals how the eruption caused the roof to fall, the team seek to find out who these people were and outline the last moments of their life as they got caught in this tragedy.

In the room next door they uncover a large brick-built oven part of a thriving bakery selling its bread wholesale to the people of Pompeii. It’s far bigger than a normal domestic bakery. And with 40 bakeries found in the city, bakery expert Dr Nicolas Monteix reveals what life was like for the enslaved workers who toiled day in and day out in the heat and dust.

Next door to the bakery is the residential part of the building. As the team begin to dig up the fresh pumice that fills the rooms, unused roof tiles, bricks and sets of builders' tools come to light – all the elements of a remarkable building site - suggesting the buildings were undergoing renovation at the time of the eruption.

This is an activity that would have been common in Pompeii at the time of the eruption as 17 years earlier, in AD 62, a large earthquake struck Pompeii, severely damaging buildings and infrastructure across the city. The team discover the remains of what could be the workers’ last meal, left where it was cooked and eaten as the eruption rocks the city and cause them to flee.

Elsewhere on the site archaeologist Dr Domenico Esposito visits another property that was undergoing renovation as the disaster struck. In the House of the Painters he finds unfinished frescoes as workers clearly fled abandoning all their tools and leaving their paints still in the pots.

As the excavation continues, the team discover a lavishly decorated atrium, frescos of Achilles and marble tables, which suggest a wealthy and affluent Pompeiian owned the property. One of the most exciting finds turns out to be a richly decorated fresco of a focaccia with cheese and fruit, which looks like a ‘pizza’ - arguably the first depiction of a pizza across the Roman world.

Pompeii: The New Dig begins 15th April on BBC Two.


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