ROME – Excavations at a suburban villa outside ancient Pompeii this month have recovered the remains of two original residents who were frozen in time at an eruption of Mount Vesuvius one fateful morning nearly 2,000 years ago.
The excavation of the two victims – which archaeologists have temporarily identified as a wealthy Pompeian landowner and a younger slave – provided new insight into the eruption that buried the ancient Roman city, which has been a source of popular fascination since its rediscovery in the 18th century. century.
The find is an “incredible font of knowledge for us,”
First, the two were dressed in woolen clothes and added confidence to the belief that the eruption took place in October 79 AD. rather than in August of that year, as had previously been thought, Mr Osanna said later in a telephone interview.
The Vesuvius eruption was described in an eyewitness account of the Roman judge Pliny the Younger as “an extraordinary and alarming scene.” Buried in ash, pumice and rocks, Pompeii and neighboring towns lay mostly dormant, though intact, until 1748, when King Charles III of Bourbon commissioned the first official excavations of the site.
Since then, much of the ancient city has been excavated, providing archaeologists and historians with a wealth of information about how its ancient inhabitants lived, from their home decor to what they ate to the tools they used.
Using a method refined by Italian archaeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli in 1863 and further refined with modern technology, archaeologists last week made plaster casts of the two newly discovered victims. That brings the range of Pompeii’s posthumous figures to more than 100.
In addition to being the first time in half a century that archaeologists created such castings linked to Pompeii – an attempt to use cement in the 1990s was not successful – the new castings are also remarkable in the surprising details they captured, including what Mr. Osanna described as the “extraordinary drapery” of their woolen clothes.
“They really seem like statues,” he said.
Archaeologists claim that the two victims had sought refuge in an underground cryptoporticus, or corridor, before being engulfed in a shower of pumice, ash and lapillaries.
“They most likely died of thermal shock, as the contracted limbs, hands and feet suggest,” Osanna said in the video, adding that DNA tests were performed on the recovered bones. Pompeii officials believe the older man was 30 to 40 years old, and the younger between 18 and 23.
The villa where the discovery was made is located in the Civita Giuliana, an area about 750 meters northwest of Pompeii’s ancient walls, which have already yielded important finds, including a racing horse with a bronze-plated saddle uncovered in 2018.
Although the archeological park was closed to visitors on November 6 due to coronavirus restrictions, excavations at the site continue.
The villa on the Civita Giuliana was first excavated briefly in 1907 and 1908. But because it is on private property, the kind of excavations that the government typically commissioned on public land did not take place. That changed in 2017 when prosecutors in nearby Torre Annunziata accused a group of people of robbing graves and looting the site using underground tunnels.
The Ministry of Culture is in the process of buying the land where the villa is located and Mr Osanna said he hoped it could eventually be opened to the public.
With more than 50 acres still to be excavated, Pompeii remains an “incredible place for research, study and education,” Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said in a statement Saturday. It is, he said, a mission for “present and future archaeologists.”