The pair of male victims, believed to be aged at least 55, were found in recent excavations at Pompeii’s ‘Chaste Lovers’ block of buildings.
They are believed to have been killed as an earthquake that accompanied the eruption of Moutn Vesuvius in 79 AD knocked down a wall in the room where they sought shelter.
Pompeii Archaeological Park Director Gabriel Zuchtriegel said the two were killed not by volcanic ash but by collapsing buildings, noting that wall fragments were found between their fractured bones.
In the room where the men were found, part of a wall had collapsed, hitting one of the victims “whose raised arm perhaps refers to the tragic image of a vain attempt to protect himself from falling masonry”, a statement from the park said.
The skeletons were found lying on their side with their legs curled up, and one wore a ring on his left hand.
They were found in what is believed to be a storeroom inside the “Chaste Lovers” block, where colourful frescoes and the skeletons of mules who worked the millstones for grain have been uncovered in the past.
Inside the room was an amphora and a collection of bowls and jugs, while an adjacent room contained a home shrine in the form of a fresco, and a narrow bathroom with a toilet.
The earthquake struck as the huge blast from nearby Mount Vesuvius covered the city of Pompeii with thick volcanic ash, preserving the bodies of many of its residents.
Archaeologists estimate that 15 to 20 percent of Pompeii’s population died in the eruption, which had a force equivalent to many atomic bombs, mostly from thermal shock as a giant cloud of gases and ash covered the city.
Earthquakes before and during the eruption, as documented in letters by Roman author Pliny the Younger, also took their toll.
“At least 15-20 percent of the population” was killed, according to the park.
Over the past two and a half centuries, archaeologists have recovered the remains of more than 1,300 victims, most recently in November 2020 when archaeologists unearthed two bodies, believed to be of a young slave and his master.
“Modern excavation techniques help us to better understand the inferno that completely destroyed the city of Pompeii over two days, killing many inhabitants”, archaeologist Zuchtriegel stated on Tuesday.
There has been a flurry of recent archaeological activity at Pompeii, aimed at halting years of decay and neglect, largely funded by a 105-million-euro EU project.
Italian Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano said on Tuesday conservation and archaeological research efforts would continue.
“The discovery of these two skeletons shows us that we still need to study a lot, do more excavations to bring out everything that is still inside this immense treasure,” he said.