Two ancient corpses have emerged from the tragedy of Pompei
This extraordinary discovery in the Archaeological Park of Pompeii will be an incredible source of knowledge
The Archaeological Park of Pompeii keeps gifting us with extraordinary discoveries, thanks to the daily work of research and study. After a long work the corpses of two antique Pompeians have emerged, thanks to the moulding technique, that will be “an incredible source of knowledge”, as stated by the Minister of Cultural Heritage, Activities and Tourism, Dario Franceschini.
The corpses of two antique Pompeians swamped by the fury of the eruption of 79 A.D., have re-emerged from the ashes thanks to the plaster moulding technique. The discovery happened recently during the excavation activities in Civita Giuliana, 700 metres to the northwest of Pompeii, in the area of the great suburban villa, where the remains of three harnessed horses had already been found in 2017.
Thus, in Pompeii relives the antique technique of realization of mouldings, invented in the 19th century by Giuseppe Fiorelli, which involves the introduction of a casting of liquid plaster in the cavities left by the corpses of the inhabitants of the antique Roman city in the inside of the volcanic material. In November, despite the closure of the Archaeological Park, the excavation investigations have carried on, bringing to light the remains of two men, most likely a rich Pompeian man and his slave, who died in 79 A.D. during the great eruption of the Vesuvius. Thanks to the perfecting of the plaster mouldings technique, which proceeded over decades, today we are gifted with the image of two fugitives with amazing details, from the drapery of the antique Roman suits, to the veins in their hands.
The first victim is, almost certainly, a boy between 18 and 23 years old, 1.56 metres tall. His head is reclined, with teeth and skull bones still partially visible; he wears a short tunic, of a length not exceeding the knee, which drapery imprint is clearly visible on the lower part of the belly, with rich and thick folds.
During the realisation of this first cast, the bones of a foot were discovered, which revealed the presence of a second victim. It is in a completely different position from the first one, but attested in other casts in Pompeii. Face on the ground, at a lower level of the body, and the chalk has precisely outlined chin, lips and nose, while the bones of the skull are partially preserved on sight.
” The excavation of Civita Giuliana is a very important one,” declares Massimo Osanna, the Director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, “because it is lead together with the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Torre Annunziata to prevent clandestine excavations, and because it gives us touching discoveries. The two victims were perhaps seeking a safe shelter in the cryptoporticus, where they were instead overwhelmed by the pyroclastic flow at 9 a.m. A death from thermal shock, as also proved by the contracted limbs, feet and hands. It’s is a death that for us today is an incredible source of knowledge”.
Translated by Elisabetta Ciocca and Micol Viviani
Reviewed by Prof. Robert Clarke