In the first dig at Herculaneum in nearly three decades, a human skeleton was recovered who has been described as being a “fugitive” attempting to flee from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD.
The discovery, which has been called a “sensational” find, was of a man between the ages of 40 and 45 who was trying to flee the eruption and was only a few steps away from the sea when he was killed. It was a pretty gruesome discovery as his partially mutilated remains were found on the ancient town’s beach. His head was pointing towards the water, while carbonized wood (this included a roof beam) surrounded his body. The victim’s skull may have been crushed by the heavy wood. Furthermore, his bones were red in color which were from blood stains.
In an interview with an Italian news agency called Ansa, Francesco Sirano, who is the director of Herculaneum archaeological park, said, “The last moments here were instantaneous, but terrible,” adding, “It was 1am when the pyroclastic surge produced by the volcano reached the town for the first time with a temperature of 300-400 degrees, or even, according to some studies, 500-700 degrees. A white-hot cloud that raced towards the sea at a speed of 100km [60 miles] per hour, which was so dense that it had no oxygen in it.”
While this was the first archaeological dig at the ancient Roman town near Pompeii in almost three decades, previous searches had revealed many more victims. As a matter of fact, over 300 victims were discovered during excavations that were conducted back in the 1980s and 1990s. The skeletons were found piled on top of each other in boat sheds where they were probably gathered in hopes for shelter against the deadly eruption and waiting to be rescued.
But unfortunately for those seeking shelter and rescue, they became victims of the awful eruption as the town was buried under approximately 15 meters (50 feet) of ash from the volcano.
Dario Franceschini, who is Italy’s culture minister, described the most recent discovery of the male victim by noting, “The sensational discovery of the remains of a fugitive at the archaeological site of Herculaneum is great news, first of all because the find is due to the resumption in this place, after almost 30 years, of scientific excavations conducted by the ministry’s technical staff.”
Pictures of the man’s skeletal remains can be seen here.