Update: The skeleton of the "unluckiest guy in history" was initially misinterpreted by the researchers. A follow-up analysis by the archeological team has revealed that the person's skull is still intact, suggesting they did not die after becoming crushed by a flying boulder.
Behold, the remains of the unluckiest guy in history.
Officials at the Pompeii archaeological site have recently unearthed the skeleton of a man who was squashed by an enormous stone block during a desperate escape from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Talk about a rough day.
In 79 CE, this notorious volcanic eruption pummelled the nearby Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum with a flurry of ash and pumice. The exact death toll is still unknown, but archaeologists have unearthed the remains of at least 1,500 people in and around the two towns, with many more believed to still be lost in the thick carpet of volcanic material.
The squashed skeleton was recently discovered at the freshly explored area of Vicolo dei Balconi near Pompeii. Archaeologists believe that the skeleton belongs to a man, no older than 30 years of age, who attempted to hide from the shower of volcanic debris in a back alley of the town. Oddly, the body was actually found at first-story level, suggesting that a thick layer of ash had already fallen when the stone block was “violently thrown by the volcanic cloud” and landed square on the man’s head and shoulders. The remains of his skull have not yet been found, although it looks unlikely any of it will be left.
The initial study of the bones appears to show lesions on one of his legs. The researchers say this hints at the presence of a disability, perhaps hampering his ability to run and evade his doom.
“This exceptional find reminds us of a similar case [also in Pompeii] where a skeleton was discovered at the House of the Smith. These were the remains of a limping individual – he too was likely impeded in his escape by his physical difficulties and left exposed,” Massimo Osanna, Director General of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, said in a statement.
Unlike this unfortunate man, the iconic “frozen figures” of Pompeii are not actually mummified remains, they are the casts of people. In 1860, Italian archaeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli discovered that you could trace the lost bodies of people by pouring cement into the hollows formed in the volcanic ash where the bodies had eventually disintegrated.
For the first time in years, there are new archaeological excavations going on at Pompeii, revealing a cornucopia of new discoveries. One of the strangest discoveries is the remains of a horse, now immortalized in a cast, that was wrapped in the ashes of a suburban Pompeii villa.