Pompeii’s Unluckiest Man Crushed By Boulder As He Fled Eruption

Archaeologists have started excavating a new area at Pompeii and the first major discovery is probably one of the unluckiest yet.

The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 is probably the most famous natural disaster in history, tragically entombing the city of Pompeii and its 11,000 inhabitants in ash.

In March 2018, archaeologists opened a new area of excavation known as ‘Regio V’, an area not researched since the post-war era. There, archaeologists found the human skeleton who appears to have been crushed by an enormous stone block.

Remarkably, he seems to have escaped the first eruptive phase of the volcano, as his body was found above a deep layer of lapilli (rock fragments ejected by the volcano).

Archaeologists excavating the site suggest that he may have tried to make a break for it after the initial blast, and headed out into the alley which was now filled with debris. That’s when he was struck by the boulder carried along in the pyroclastic flow – a fast moving cloud of hot gas, ash and rock fragments that can reach speeds of up to 430 miles per hour and temperatures of 1,000°C.

The boulder, which has clearly been shaped, appears to be a door jamb. Archaeologists believe that the man may have turned around to look behind him when the stone struck him, knocking him backwards, and crushing his upper body.

📷 Parco Archeologico Di Pompei

Anthropologists using skeletal analysis have been able to determine that the person was probably male and most likely in his 30s. They have also discovered lesions on his tibia, that indicate he was suffering from a bone infection in his leg at the time of his death, which may have made walking and certainly running difficult for him.

The injury may have, at least in part, hindered his escape from the city. His skull has not yet been recovered, however it seems most likely that it is crushed underneath the stone.

Another victim was also recovered who appeared to have grabbed a bag of coins before fleeing.


Posted by Pompeii – Parco Archeologico on Friday, 1 June 2018

The eruption followed a period of inactivity that had lasted for 1,500 years, burying the city which had only been founded about 160 years earlier. Pompeii was rediscovered in 1599, and the first excavations began in 1748. So far, about two thirds of the site have been investigated.

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Harriet Tatton

Written by Harriet Tatton

Harriet is one of DigVentures' community archaeologists. She loves museums, skeletons, and a good cup of Early Grey. Her first dig was at Bennachie, in Aberdeenshire, and since then she's never gone digging without her signature flowery wellies.

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