Victim Crushed by Rock Found at Pompeii

Bone infection slowed down his escape
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 30, 2018 6:03 AM CDT
Victim Crushed by Rock Found at Pompeii
The legs of a skeleton emerge from the ground beneath a large rock believed to have crushed the victim during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79.   (Ciro Fusco/ANSA via AP)

It's not hard to figure out what killed a man whose remains were recently discovered at Pompeii—there is a massive stone block, probably hurled by a volcanic cloud, crushing the top part of his body. Determining why he was there takes more expertise: Archaeologists say there are lesions on his tibia that suggest he had a bone infection that slowed down his escape from the city after the AD79 eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, CNN reports. They believe the man, who was at least 30 years old, limped as he fled down the alley where his remains were found, "Initial observations would appear to indicate that the individual survived the first eruptive phase of the volcano, and subsequently sought salvation along the alley," which was already covered in a thick layer of rocks ejected by the eruption, researchers said in a press release.

Researchers say the man was trying to escape a deadly cloud of gas, pumice, ashes, NPR reports. They believe the stone block, which was probably a door jamb, was thrown by the force of the deadly cloud. Massimo Osanna, general director of the Italian site, says the dramatic find shows how technology has transformed archaeology, the AP reports. "In the 1800s and 1900s, they dug in the area where we found the skeleton, but they did not go as deep as we did," he says. "Because of the experts we had, we knew how to do it." (Another extraordinary find was made in Pompeii's central bath house.)

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