Last month, it was announced that archaeologists had discovered the skeleton of a man who had perished at the cruel hands of Mt. Vesuvius in Pompeii, with his skeleton seen protruding out from under a very large stone block. While this man has been compared to Wile E. Coyote and been subjected to numerous jokes about the cause of his death, archaeologists can now say definitively that the man’s skull was not crushed at all by this boulder and has remained fully intact for the past 2,000 years.
As Forbes has reported, two days ago the Pompeii Archaeological Park placed pictures on social media showing the unfortunate Pompeii resident’s death was not caused by a blow to the head from the large stone object, which may be the remains of a door jamb that was thrust through the air with the volcanic cloud.
Archaeologists explained that his demise was “not presumably due to the impact of the lithic block, as first assumed, but probably the result of asphyxia due to the pyroclastic flow.”
The idea that the victim’s skull had been crushed by the stone block first arose during the start of the excavation when archaeologists naturally assumed that this was probably the cause of death due to the position of his body in relation to the large object that had fallen on his head.
“In the first phase of excavation, it seemed that the upper portion of the thorax and the skull, not yet identified, had been sheared and dragged downwards by a block of stone that had crushed the victim: this preliminary hypothesis arose from the position of the stone with respect to the impression of the body in the ash.”
Report man crushed by flying boulder during 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius proven wrong; man's intact skull found buried nearby. Archaeologists say likely moved by Pompeii treasure-seekers in previous dig. Man probably died of extreme heat. Background: https://t.co/Bpgwg6xOvw pic.twitter.com/uAnpRC2fnx
— CBC News Alerts (@CBCAlerts) June 29, 2018
After further excavation work, archaeologists finally managed to recover the man’s skull which was found three feet down from the rest of his body. It is thought that the reason for this odd positioning is due to previous excavations that were conducted during the Bourbon period between 1748 and 1815, which would have caused his body to shift markedly.
It is fairly certain that this Pompeii victim, a 35-year-old male, would have been dealing with an infection of the tibia which would have caused him to limp and hindered his ability to escape. Archaeologists have discovered a sack beside the man which contained two bronze coins, 20 silver coins and a key made of iron, according to the New York Times.
The most plausible theory for the stone boulder that was found on the man was that the victim was either inside a building or very close to one when he suffocated to death, and the object may have fallen on him after he had already perished.
Pompeii site director Dr. Massimo Osanna explained that archaeologists were quite surprised when they discovered that the man’s head had not been crushed after all as had first been suspected.
“The surprise for us was that the skull was intact and it was not crushed by the block. Now that we have the complete skeleton we can understand a lot of things.”
Archaeologists will now be analyzing DNA from the Pompeii victim’s skull to learn more about his life before the tragic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.