(London Telegraph) When you walk round Pompeii, the biggest crowds always gather in front of the poignant plaster casts of the dead Romans – killed not by the lava, but by the intense heat and fumes that rushed through the streets before the lava engulfed them.

You feel an immediate, agonising human sympathy with these poor, ancient Italians – their bodies hunched in terror – even though they were wiped out almost 2,000 years ago. In a nutshell, that human element is what makes the Pompeii story so eternally compelling; and what will make next spring’s blockbuster at the British Museum as big a draw as the last Pompeii exhibition, one of the great British shows of the 1970s, along with the Tutankhamun exhibition.

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