Two more victims of volcanic eruption found in Italy’s Pompeii ruins

Archaeologists at Pompeii said on Tuesday that they had uncovered two more skeletons in the ruins of the ancient Roman city wiped out by a volcanic eruption nearly 2,000 years ago.

Two more victims of volcanic eruption found in Italy's Pompeii ruins
The archeological site of Pompeii, near Naples, can now be reached be a direct train from Rome. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

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.

IN PHOTOS: Pompeii’s treasures go on display at reopened Antiquarium museum

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.

Pompeii’s site director Gabriel Zuchtriegel. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

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.

READ ALSO: Roman chariot unearthed ‘almost intact’ near Pompeii

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.

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Archaeologists discover ‘prison bakery’ in ancient Pompeii

Pompeii - the second most visited tourist site in Italy - continues to yield archaeological discoveries, providing brutal insights into the ancient world.

Archaeologists discover 'prison bakery' in ancient Pompeii

Archaeologists excavating the ancient Roman city of Pompeii have uncovered a “prison bakery” where slaves and blindfolded donkeys were kept locked up underground to grind grain for bread, officials said this week.

Underneath a house in the ruins they found “a cramped room with no view of the outside world and with small windows high in the wall, with iron bars, to let the light in”, the Archaeological Park of Pompeii announced on Friday.

Archaeologists deduced they had found a “prison bakery”, the UNESCO World Heritage Site near Naples, southern Italy, said on its website.

They also discovered “indentations” in the floor “to coordinate the movement of the animals, forced to walk around for hours, blindfolded”.

The house, on the 44-hectare site that is currently under excavation, was divided into a residential area “decorated with exquisite Fourth Style frescoes” and a “productive quarter”, the bakery.

Three skeletons were discovered in one room of the bakery, showing that the house was inhabited.

The bakery, where slaves and animals were forced to perform the backbreaking task of turning the millstones, had no doors or communication with the outside world.

‘Shocking’ side of ancient world

“It is, in other words, a space in which we have to imagine the presence of people of servile status whose freedom of movement the owner felt the need to restrict,” wrote Pompeii director Gabriel Zuchtreigel in a scholarly article.

“It is the most shocking side of ancient slavery, the one devoid of both trusting relationships and promises of manumission, where we were reduced to brute violence, an impression that is entirely confirmed by the securing of the few windows with iron bars.”

The public can view more evidence of this harsh daily life in an exhibition called “The Other Pompeii: Ordinary Lives in the Shadow of Vesuvius” which opens at the Palestra Grande in Pompeii on December 15.

“(The exhibition is) dedicated to that myriad of individuals often forgotten by the historical sources, such as the slaves, who constituted the majority of the population and whose labour contributed in an important way not only to the economy, but also to the culture and social fabric of Roman civilisation,” the Pompeii authorities said.

Pompeii was devastated when nearby Mount Vesuvius erupted almost 2,000 years ago in 79 AD.

The ash and rock helped preserve many buildings almost in their original state, as well as forming eery shapes around the curled-up corpses of victims of the disaster, thought to number around 3,000.

Pompeii is the second most visited tourist destination in Italy after the Colosseum in Rome.