These are the remains of a man aged 40 to 45 who died in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79, the director of the Herculaneum Archaeological Park, Francesco Sirano, told the Italian news agency Ansa. “He could have been a rescue worker. A find from which we expect a lot,” said the expert.
The discovery aims to shed light on the last moments of the sunken city of Herculaneum, which in ancient times was located where Ercolano is today. When Mount Vesuvius erupted, the famous city of Pompeii also perished.
The man was found with his head towards the sea, Sirano explained. The researchers assume that he was knocked over by the blisteringly hot cloud of ash while trying to escape. Because he fell backwards, he may have seen the cloud of ash racing towards him.
The experts found the petrified skeleton in a place where it was last dug around 25 years ago. At that time, the remains of more than 300 people were found where the sandy beach used to be in ancient times. They are said to have sought shelter there in small camps and waited for the fleet of the Roman officer Pliny the Elder.
At the time of the eruption, a fleet led by the general and writer Pliny the Elder had come to the aid of the inhabitants of Herculaneum. Pliny the Elder died on the shore, but his officers managed to evacuate hundreds of survivors.
Researchers are puzzled as to who the man might have been. There are many assumptions. Sirano explained that the dead man could also have been “one of those who escaped”. The man may have tried to reach one of the lifeboats. “Maybe he was the latecomer of a group that made it to sea.”
The skeleton was found under charred remains of wood. A falling beam from a house could have crushed the man’s skull. The archaeologists also found traces of fabrics and metal objects.
It could be the remains of the man’s personal belongings, such as a bag, tools, or even weapons and coins. The researchers now want to move a large lump of lava rock with the skeleton inside to a laboratory for further investigation.
uh/djo (dpa, afp)