There are pains that echo like an echo in history. This is the case of the “last fugitive” from Herculaneum, a man in his 40s who was run over by the first wash of Vesuvius while seeking salvation and whose recent discovery promises to shed more light on one of the greatest tragedies the world has known.
“His discovery gave me empathy,” Francisco Sirano, the director of the Herculaneum archaeological park, one of the Roman cities next to Pompeii erased from the map by the violent eruption of Vesuvius two millennia ago, in AD 79, confessed this Wednesday.
This site in southern Italy announced last October the discovery of a skeleton embedded in a rock wall near the beach, baptizing it as the “last fugitive” of the tragedy, and immediately a question arose: who was that unfortunate?
What do we know about him?
At the moment there is little information. It is known, according to the latest data presented today, that it was a man in his 40s and 45s who was near the coast when he was swept away by the first wash of fire, ash, gas and remains of the ancient city.
His clothes ‘evaporated immediately’ due to the very high temperatures reached and in his bones you can still see numerous fractures due to blows
His clothes “evaporated immediately” due to the very high temperatures reached and in his bones you can still see numerous fractures due to the blows and mutilations suffered by the remains submerged like him in the pyroclastic torrent.
Investigations to learn more about this man will continue and the study of the remains of a small wooden box that has just been located and that apparently the victim was carrying wrapped in a cloth will be key. The essential and, surely, most valuable of your life.
A modern excavation
The entire area will be the subject of a “multidisciplinary” analysis to document the lava flow of the volcano, financed by the Ministry of Culture and with the support of the Packard Humanities Institute, which has donated the project to organize the old beach area.
“Herculano never disappoints and every time a front is opened, incredible remains are discovered,” celebrated the director of the Herculaneum Conservation Project, a philanthropic program that since 2001 has been in charge of protecting and enhancing this archaeological site.
On the localized bone and organic remains, in view of everyone who passes through the site, laser examinations and scanners will be carried out to restore their three-dimensional appearance.
It is the discovery of the first skeleton since the excavations in Herculaneum were completed 25 years ago
It is the discovery of the first skeleton since the excavations in Herculaneum were concluded 25 years ago, which until then had documented a total of 330 skeletons of men, women and children who suffered the same tragic end as the latter.
Beside it, numerous remains have been found washed away, such as bushes, roots, trees, large building beams, fragments of cornices, roofs and even ship masts, echoes of a city then on the brink of certain extinction.
The skeleton, found in a supine position with its head facing the city, moves and attests to the “sense of humanity” that is still breathed in Herculaneum, as defended by its director.
The tragedy of Herculaneum
In AD 79 an unforeseen explosion interrupted the life of all the cities that surrounded the crater and a column of pyroclastic material fourteen kilometers high caused a shower of ash and stone on Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplontis or Stabia.
It was the beginning of a tragedy in which Herculaneum was the first victim, devastated first by a heat wave of about 400 degrees Celsius and later by an avalanche that buried the city under a twenty meter thick layer of volcanic material.
These cities, prosperous due to the increasing tourism of the Roman Empire, ended up in oblivion and shrouded in myth until their discovery in the middle of the 18th century.
These cities, prosperous due to the growing tourism of the Roman Empire, ended up in oblivion and shrouded in myth until their discovery in the middle of the 18th century, when the excavations began at the will of the King of Naples Carlos de Borbón, who later would become Carlos III of Spain.
The Roman writer Pliny the Younger, a witness to the tragedy and who lost his uncle and tutor, Pliny the Elder, in the eruption, recounted what happened in a series of epistles to his friend, the historian Tacitus, which attest to the earthly hell that was unleashed.
Precisely this last piece of information could have something to do with this skeleton: the researchers recognize that the reasons why it was on the coast can only be hypotheses, and the most shuffled one is that it could be waiting to embark on the fleet of Pliny the Old to escape.
A salvation that never came to him, like many of his unfortunate neighbors