ROME – Excavations at a suburban village on the outskirts of ancient Pompeii this month have recovered the remains of two original inhabitants frozen in time by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius one fateful morning nearly 2,000 years ago.
The find of the two victims, whom archaeologists provisionally identified as a wealthy Pompeian landowner and a young slave, offered a new Vision from the eruption that buried the ancient Roman city, which has been a source of popular fascination since its rediscovery in the 18th century.
A detail of the rubbings of one of the two bodies believed to have been that of a rich man and his male slave fleeing the volcanic eruption of Vesuvius almost 2,000 years ago, are seen in what was an elegant villa on the outskirts from the ancient Roman city of Pompeii. Photo Parco Archeologico di Pompei via AP.
The find is an “incredible source of knowledge for us,” Massimo Osanna, outgoing director of the Pompeii Archaeological Park, said in a video released by the Ministry of Culture on Saturday. He noted that it was also “a discovery touching of great emotional impact “.
For one thing, the two of them were dressed in woolen clothes, which adds credibility to the belief that the eruption occurred in October 79 AD rather than August of that year, as previously thought, Osanna said later in a telephone interview.
The eruption of Vesuvius was described in an eyewitness account by the Roman magistrate Pliny the Younger as “an extraordinary and alarming scene”.
Buried by ash, pumice, and rocks, Pompeii and neighboring cities remained mostly dormant, though intact, until 1748, when the king Carlos III of Bourbon commissioned the first official excavations of the site.
Since then, much of the ancient city has been unearthed, providing archaeologists and historians with a wealth of information about how its ancient inhabitants lived, from the decoration of their houses, what they ate and the tools they used.
The rubbings of the bodies of two men, a 40-year-old master and his young slave, after they were found during the recent excavations of a Villa in Civita Giuliana. – AFP.
Using a method perfected by the Italian archaeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli In 1863 and perfected with modern technology, archaeologists last week made plaster casts of the two newly discovered victims.
That raises the ranks of the posthumous effigies from Pompeii to more than 100.
Aside from being the first time in half a century that archaeologists created such Pompeii-linked rubbings – an attempt to use cement in the 1990s was unsuccessful – the new rubbings are also notable in the surprising detail they captured, including what Osanna described as the “extraordinary draping” of her woolen clothing.
“Really they look like statues“, said.
Archaeologists postulate that the two victims had taken refuge in an underground cryptoportico, or corridor, before being engulfed in a shower of pumice, ash and lapilli.
“It is very likely that they died by thermal shockas suggested by the contracted limbs, hands and feet, “Osanna said in the video, adding that DNA testing was underway on the recovered bones.
Pompeii officials believe the oldest man was between 30 and 40 years old, and the youngest between 18 and 23.
The villa where the discovery was made is in Civita Giuliana, an area about 750 meters northwest of the ancient walls of Pompeii, which has already led to important finds, including a purebred horse with a bronze plated saddle discovered in 2018.
Although the archaeological park closed its doors to visitors on November 6 due to coronavirus restrictions, excavations at the site have continued.
The town of Civita Giuliana was first excavated briefly in 1907 and 1908. But because it is on private property, the type of government-commissioned excavations, typically carried out 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 purchasing the land where the villa is located, and Osanna said she hoped it could eventually be opened to the public.
With more than 20,000 square meters still to be excavated, Pompeii remains “an incredible site for research, study and training,” Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said in a statement on Saturday.
It is, he said, a mission for “archaeologists of today and of the future.”
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