Almost 2,000 years ago, Mount Vesuvius erupted and obliterated Pompeii, an ancient city in Rome. But, archaeologists continue to dig up new relics from the site of the catastrophe.
The latest discovery by archaeologists includes skeletal artifacts of what are believed to have been a wealthy man and his male slave attempting to flee the volcanic eruption, the Italian Ministry of Culture disclosed on Saturday.
The man of high status, estimated to be between 30 and 40 years old, still bore traces of a woollen cloak under his neck. The other, probably aged 18 to 23, was clad in a tunic and had multiple crushed vertebrae, suggesting that he had undergone heavy labor or, perhaps, physical punishment.
The remains of the two victims, lying next to each other on their backs, were discovered in a thick layer of grey ash at least 6.5 feet deep.
The unearthing of the two exceptionally well-preserved victims has offered new insight into the tragic event that buried the primeval Roman settlement, which has been a source of popular interest and intrigue since it was rediscovered in the 18th century.
According to Massimo Osanna, the outgoing chief of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, the finding is an "incredible font of knowledge for us," noting that it was also "a touching discovery of great emotional impact," The New York Times quoted him as saying in a video released by the culture ministry, Saturday.
Researchers unearthed parts of the bones and skulls while excavating the ruins of what used to be a huge house with a panoramic view of the Mediterranean Sea, situated on the outlying edges of Pompeii.
The bones were discovered at Civita Giuliana, the same spot where archaeologists digging up a stable found the remains of three horses in 2017, authorities said.
"The victims were probably looking for shelter in the cryptoporticus... where they thought they were better protected," Osanna said. Cryptoporticus are underground corridors or passageways. Their death, Osanna added, is "a death by thermal shock, as also demonstrated by their clenched feet and hands."
Pompeii, 23 kilometers southeast of Naples, was home to around 13,000 people when the volcanic eruption buried the city under tons of ash, pebbles, and dust, freezing it over time. Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said the discovery underscored Pompeii's reputation as "an incredible place for research and study."
Mount Vesuvius remains an active volcano. While excavations continue at the site near Naples, tourists are currently prohibited from entering the archaeological park under national pandemic protocols.