Top positive review
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Down to earth investigation into Roman daily life
on 18 April 2013
This hour-long TV documentary is a couple of years old, and has probably been released in 2013 because there's a major exhibition of items from Pompeii and Herculaneum on display in London this year.
This is one of the first TV documentaries which Mary Beard presented, and is based around her book. She comes over as massively knowledgeable on the subject; enthusiastic and approachable; extremely keen to convey the nitty gritty and daily realities of life for normal Roman folk. So there's a lot of chat about graffiti and grubby streets, and the dubious hygiene of the sweaty public baths...
The show includes a few staples of modern archaeology, like using forensic techniques to investigate a group of skeletons which weren't destroyed by the ash. So the experts use bone and teeth samples to sketch out the wealth, health, height and diet of the population (and even comment on their sex lives). Also the less appealing process of examining sewage waste to determine what food was regularly eaten - sea urchins, no less!
This is pretty much a no-frills documentary, based around evidence and experience rather than actors in togas and cutting-edge CGI. Mary Beard doesn't dress up herself and she concentrates on uncovering daily realities for 'normal' people, folks who lived in block of flats, and who were remarkable only for the way in which they died. It comes close to demonstrating what life might have been like 2000 years ago for the people of Pompeii.
I didn't learn a huge amount more than I already knew about the subject, but I appreciated Mary Beard's insightful comments and her down-to-earth presentation.
Sits well alongside Mary Beard's more comprehensive series: Meet The Romans Presented by Mary Beard As Seen On BBC2 [DVD] which is thoroughly recommended.