In 1863, on the grounds of ancient Pompeii, the city destroyed by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79, the archaeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli came across valuable relics that bore witness to a tragic fate. During the excavations, cavities had been discovered beneath a layer of hardened ash. Fiorelli had them filled with plaster—and unearthed casts of human victims of the natural disaster in the throes of death. Giorgio Sommer was one of the few photographers to have the privilege of documenting the finds on commission from the excavation director. To this day, his images still bring the catastrophe horrifyingly close.