A restoration project to clean up the ruins of Pompeii unearthed a surprising discovery. The skeleton of a crouching child believed to be around 7 or 8 years of age was found at ancient thermal baths just 10 centimeters (4 inches) below the surface. That’s not all. It appears the skeleton had been previously tampered with.
The researchers believe the skeleton may have first been found during a 19th-century excavation because the legs were placed near the pelvis. It’s unclear why archaeologists didn’t remove the remains at the time, but it could be because the layer of volcanic material would have made it hard to take a cast of the bones. The child was likely killed as they became submerged in a mixture of deadly gases and volcanic matter called a pyroclastic flow. DNA testing at a research lab in the Archaeological Park of Pompeii will determine the gender of the child, as well as any diseases they may have had.
Archaeologists and architects are working alongside engineers and volcanologists to reconstruct the history of the 22-hectare (54-acre) bath area in the northern part of the city using drones, laser scanning, and ground-penetrating techniques, reports Repubblica TV.
Mount Vesuvius has erupted more than 50 times, most famously in 79 CE when a blanket of volcanic ash buried the city and killed more than 16,000 people. Shortly after, the Roman city was abandoned. The two-day eruption was described in an eyewitness account from one survivor named Pliny the Younger (after his uncle, Pliny the Elder).
“Mount Vesuvius broad sheets of fire and leaping flames blazed at several points, their bright glare emphasized by the darkness of night,” described Pliny, who continued that pumice stones fell from the sky, the ocean became wild and dangerous, and the city smelled of sulfur.
It wasn’t until 1748 that a group of explorers rediscovered the site below a layer of dust, only to find the ancient city – and most of its buildings, artifacts, and former residents – mostly intact.
Still active today, the volcano has been dubbed “Europe’s Time Bomb”. More than 600,000 residents live within the "red" danger zone, while another 63 Italian towns and villages are also at risk. Most recently, several villages were flattened when the continent’s only active volcano erupted in 1944.