The skeleton of a man killed nearly 2,000 years ago by the deadly eruption of Mount Vesuvius has been unearthed from an ancient shore in Herculaneum. The man was probably fleeing disaster when he was caught and killed. The man was killed a few steps from the sea in this ancient Roman city, which, like Pompeii, was destroyed by the great eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD.
Archaeologists believe the man was fleeing from the canopy of a boat in the city. The canopies were stone arches used to hold nets and fishing equipment. On the run, he was killed by a very hot erupting cloud caused by an eruption that engulfed Herculaneum at speeds of more than 100 kilometers per hour. “Francesco Sirano, director of the Herculaneum Archaeological Park, told LiveScience:
When the pyroclastic cloud reached, the temperature was more than 500 degrees Celsius. It was very, very hot. It was so hot that anything living like this man evaporated immediately.
All that is left are the man’s bones, which show that when he fell on his back, he was facing the sea and facing the land. He had probably spun around to see the onslaught of hot gas and volcanic debris. It is thought that a pyroclastic cloud then carried his body to the water’s edge along an ancient coast and perhaps to shallow areas.
The man was between 40 and 45 years old at the time of his death. He may have been a Roman citizen in a coastal city that was popular with the rich.
Herculaneum was one of the few Roman cities in the Gulf of Naples that was destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius. Herculaneum, like the city of Pompeii, about 13 km southeast, was covered by a layer of eruption ash that protected it from climatic factors and looting until it was discovered in the early 18th century. Most of the dead found in Herculaneum (more than 300 people) were killed in stone arches about 30 meters inland. It is thought that people took refuge in this building due to the influx of fireworks.
About 25 years later, Pliny the Younger, a Roman writer, stated that his uncle Pliny the Great (a philosopher who was also the Roman admiral of the region) ordered naval boats to go to Herculaneum to save people from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. However, this mission was not successful and killed a large Pliny eruption in a city called Stabia, a few miles south of Pompeii.
The skeleton was found upwards. Archaeologists believe the man turned to a cloud of gas and volcanic debris from a volcanic eruption when he was killed.
Earlier this year, archaeologists discovered that the skeleton of another man discovered in Herculaneum in the 1980s may have been a Roman army officer who went with Pliny’s rescue fleet. But the man recently found was not wearing a uniform and did not appear to be a soldier.
Analysis of the male skeleton shows that he was 40 to 45 years old and that the remains of the wooden box he appeared to be carrying in a cloth bag probably contained his valuable possessions. Among them is an object made of metal that is likely a ring, although more research is needed to identify it. “We can argue that he may have been a Roman citizen of the city and not a member of the rescue team,” Cyrano said.
Although Pompeii was twice caught in a volcanic eruption, many of the townspeople survived but were killed by the fall of the volcanic remains. But the early pyroclastic clouds were heavier in Herculaneum and killed many people almost immediately (archaeologists estimate that out of a population of about 5,000 Herculaneum, about 1,000 survived, while more than 20,000 in Pompeii survived).
The lack of oxygen in the pyroclastic clouds in Herculaneum also meant that organic matter was carbonized instead of burned. As a result, wooden roof beams, doors and even food were found there. The newly discovered victim was also surrounded by carbonized debris, including shrubs, tree roots, roof beams and fragments of frames and frames that may have belonged to the houses.
Although archaeologists first excavated the ancient coast in the 1980s, they have recently returned with funding from the Packard Institute for the Humanities. This skeleton is the first of the victims found by Vesuvius in the last 14 years, and provides an opportunity for archaeologists to use the latest scientific techniques (including 3D imaging) at every stage of the excavation.