“Sensational”: a skeleton buried during the eruption of Vesuvius found in Herculaneum

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The partially mutilated remains of a man buried by the eruption of Vesuvius AD 79 in Herculaneum, the ancient Roman city near Pompeii, have been discovered in what the Italian Minister of Culture described as a “sensational” find .

Archaeologists say the man, who is believed to be between 40 and 45, was killed just steps from the sea as he tried to flee the eruption.

His skeleton was found on what would have been the beach of the ancient city with its head facing the sea, and surrounded by charred wood, including a roof beam, which could have crushed his skull, the news agency Italian Ansa, reported.

“The last moments here were instantaneous, but terrible,” said Ansa Francesco Sirano, director of the Archaeological Park of Herculaneum.

“It was 1 am when the pyroclastic surge produced by the volcano reached the city for the first time with a temperature of 300 to 400 degrees, or even, according to some studies, of 500 to 700 degrees. A white-hot cloud that ran towards the sea at a speed of 100 km [60 miles] per hour, which was so dense that there was no oxygen in it.

The man’s bones were a bright red color, which Sirano said was “the mark of the stains left by the victim’s blood.”

The discovery was made during the first archaeological excavations at Herculaneum, a site much smaller and less known than neighboring Pompeii, in nearly three decades.

Excavations in the 1980s and 1990s uncovered the skeletons of more than 300 victims crammed into boathouses, where they would have taken shelter while waiting to be rescued by sea.

Dario Franceschini, Italian Minister of Culture, said: “The sensational discovery of the remains of a fugitive at the archaeological site of Herculaneum is excellent news, first of all because the discovery is due to the resumption there , after nearly 30 years, of scientific excavations carried out by the technical staff of the ministry.

Herculaneum was buried under about 15 meters (50 feet) of volcanic ash until it was rediscovered during a well digging in the early 18th century.


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