Two newly unearthed victims of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius have offered fresh insights into the ancient disaster. The skeletal remains of what archeologists tentatively believe were a rich Pompeian landowner and his young male slave were discovered during excavation of a villa on the outskirts of ancient Pompeii, Italy.
The two, frozen in time while likely attempting to escape the eruption, was called an “incredible font of knowledge” by Massimo Osanna, the director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, which operates under the jurisdiction of the Italian Culture Ministry. In a video statement released by the Ministry on Saturday, Osanna added that the find was also “a touching discovery of great emotional impact.”
Osanna told the New York Times that the two were wearing woolen clothing, which supports the belief that Vesuvius erupted in October of 79 A.D., as opposed to August of that year, as had been previously theorized. The explosion unleashed a sudden rain of hot ash, pumice and rocks on the Mediterranean town and surrounding cities. Two men are believed to have survived the initial fall of ash, only to succumb to a volcanic blast that released clouds of scorching gases the next morning. According to a statement by the Ministry, the blast “apparently invaded the area from many points, surrounding and burying the victims in ash.”
Sporadic excavations of Pompeii began in 1748 under King Charles III of Bourbon, revealing the Greco-Roman metropolis almost perfectly preserved by layers of ash. Since then, most of the city has been unearthed, offering unparalleled insight into the details of daily life in the region, from clothing to kitchenware. By pouring liquid chalk into the cavities left by human remains in the ash, archeologists have also managed to create more than 100 plaster casts of Pompeiians in their final moments. The haunting casts have occupied a place in the popular imagination since the technique was refined in the 1800s.
Civita Giuliana, the villa where the two were discovered, is the site of numerous significant discoveries, including an ancient purebred horse with a bronze-plated military saddle that was found in 2018. According to Osanna, the culture ministry is in the process of buying the land where the villa is located. Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said in a statement that the area remains “an incredible site for research, study and training,” and that the investigation of Pompeii is an undertaking for the “archaeologists of today and the future.”