A skeleton discovered in the ancient Roman city of Herculaneum, destroyed like neighboring Pompeii by the eruption of the Mount Vesuvius volcano 2,000 years ago, could offer new information about the historic disaster, an Italian expert said on Friday (15).
The remains, supposedly of a 40-45 year old man, were found under meters of volcanic rock, almost where Herculaneum’s sea line was before the Vesuvius explosion in AD 79
The corpse was upside down, facing the ground and probably saw death in front of him, surprised by the molten lava that buried the city, analyzed the director of the archaeological park of Herculano to the Italian agency ANSA.
“It could have been a rescuer,” suggested Francesco Sirano.
When Vesuvius erupted, a naval fleet commanded by the writer and military man Pliny the Elder came to their rescue. Although he died on the coast, it is believed that the sailors were able to evacuate hundreds of survivors.
The skeleton could also belong to “one of the fugitives” trying to reach the rescue boats. “He may have been the last unlucky one of a group that managed to escape,” Sirano said.
The skeleton was covered in charred wood debris, including a beam that could have hit its head. His bones were bright red, probably bloody marks from when the victim had been absorbed into the lava.
Archaeologists have also found remnants of fabric and metal objects, perhaps personal effects such as a purse, work tools, a weapon or coins, speculated the director of the archeological park.
Other human remains have been found in the last few decades in that area, including a skull that some attribute to Pliny, but this latest discovery can be investigated with more modern techniques.
“Today we have the possibility to understand more”, said Sirano.
The researchers believe that temperatures in Herculaneum reached 500 degrees, enough to vaporize soft tissue. In a phenomenon not well understood, temperatures plummeted, allowing the remains to be kept in good condition.
Smaller and lesser known than Pompeii, Herculaneum was a richer city with more exquisite architecture.
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