The remains of two men who were fleeing Pompeii from the deadly volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD have been unearthed. Their remains were so well preserved that experts were even able to see what type of clothing they were wearing when they died.
The two individuals who were lying next to each other on their backs were unearthed during recent excavations of a suburban villa in Civita Giuliana which is located approximately 700 meters northwest of the ancient walls of Pompeii. They were buried in a layer of gray ash that was at least 2 meters deep (or 6.5 feet). According to archaeologists, the remains were believed to have been a wealthy landowner and his younger slave. It is estimated that the landowner was between 30 and 40 years of age while the younger man was between 18 and 25 years old.
Experts were able to estimate their ages by analyzing their cranial bones and their teeth. They were also able to determine that the younger male had compressed discs in his spinal column that were more than likely caused by extensive manual labor which is why he was believed to have been a slave. The older male, who was found with his hands on his chest while his legs were spread apart and bent, had a strong bone structure, specifically around the area of his chest.
Since they were both wearing woolen clothing, indications were that the temperatures were getting cooler. Based on their warmer clothing, it would seem as though the eruption did in fact occur in October instead of the previously suggested month of August.
The men were apparently running for cover after Mount Vesuvius erupted as their remains were discovered in an underground cryptoporticus (a covered corridor or passageway) prior to being bombarded with ash, pumice stones, and lapilli. Massimo Osanna, who is the departing director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, explained how they probably would have died, “They very likely died by thermal shock, as the contracted limbs, hands and feet would suggest.”
Archaeologists made plaster casts of the two deceased men which made them “really seem like statues,” according to Osanna. He went on to say that finding the remains of the two men was an “incredible font of knowledge for us,” adding, that it was “a touching discovery of great emotional impact.” (Several pictures of the two men can be seen here.)
Archaeologists are not finished with Pompeii yet as they still have over 50 acres that haven’t been excavated. With that being said, they may uncover even more surprising facts and details about the deadly volcanic eruption that took so many lives (around 2,300 people just from Pompeii and Herculaneum with an entire death toll of about 16,000).