Skeletal remains of what is believed to be a wealthy man and his male slave attempting to escape death from the eruption of Vesuvius nearly 2,000 years ago have been unearthed in Pompeii, officials said on Saturday. archaeological park in Italy.
Parts of the skulls and bones of the two men were found during the excavation of the ruins of what was once an elegant villa with panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea, located on the outskirts of the ancient Roman city destroyed by the eruption of the volcano in 79 AD This is the same area where a stable with the remains of three harnessed horses was excavated in 2017.
Pompeii officials said the men apparently escaped the initial ash fall from Vesuvius and then succumbed to a powerful volcanic explosion that took place the next morning. The subsequent explosion “apparently invaded the area from many points, surrounding and burying the victims in the ashes,” Pompeii officials said in a statement.
The remains of the two victims, lying next to each other on their backs, were found in a layer of gray ash at least two meters deep, they said.
As was done when other remains were discovered at the Pompeii site, archaeologists poured liquid chalk into the cavities, or void, left by the decaying bodies in the ashes and pumice that were raining down. of the volcano, near modern Naples, and demolished the upper levels of the villa.
The technique, developed in the 1800s, not only conveys the shape and position of victims in the death throes, but makes the remains “look like statues,” said Massimo Osanna, an archaeologist who is director general of the archaeological park. operated under the jurisdiction of the Italian Ministry of Culture.
Judging by the skull bones and teeth, one of the men was young, probably between 18 and 25, with a spine with compressed discs. This discovery led archaeologists to hypothesize that he was a young man who did manual labor, like that of a slave.
The other man had a sturdy bone structure, especially in his chest area, and died with his hands on his chest and his legs bent and spread apart. He is estimated to be between 30 and 40 years old, Pompeii officials said. Fragments of white paint were found near the man’s face, likely remnants of a collapsed upper wall, officials said.
The two skeletons were found in a side room along an underground hallway, or passage, known in Roman antiquity as the cryptoporticus, which led to the upper level of the villa.
“The victims were probably looking for shelter in the cryptoporticus, in this underground space, where they thought they were better protected,” Osanna said.
Instead, on the morning of October 25, 79 AD, a “flaming cloud [of volcanic material] got to Pompeii and … killed everyone he met on his way, ”Osanna said.
Based on the impression of folds of fabric left in the ash layer, it turned out that the young man was wearing a short, pleated tunic, possibly made of wool. The older victim, in addition to wearing a tunic, appeared to have a cloak over his left shoulder.
Vesuvius remains an active volcano. As excavations continue at the site near Naples, tourists are currently excluded from the archaeological park under national anti-COVID-19 measures.