Archaeologists announced Friday that they have discovered the perfectly preserved bodies of two men who died together at a villa just outside of Pompeii nearly 2,000 years ago.
The men were relatively young when they were killed after Mt. Vesuvius erupted, sending lava coursing down to the land below and hot ash blanketing all of Pompeii.
From their garments and the state of their bones, archaeologists have determined that one of the men was wealthy, while the other was enslaved, possibly by the wealthy man.
The rich man was thought to be in his thirties or forties, and the slave in his late teens or early twenties. They were found in the suburban villa of Civita Giuliana, 0.7 km (0.4 miles) from the center of Pompeii.
The bodies were found in an underground corridor, signaling that the pair sought refuge there before their deaths, falsely assuming that they would be safe from the fiery ash coursing through the villa.
Their bodies remained preserved and undiscovered under 6 feet of ash for nearly 2,000 years.
After they were discovered, specialists examined their remains using lasers, and filled in the empty spaces between the hardened ash surrounding them and their bones, where tissue once was, to make a cast of their bodies, which depict the tiniest details like the folds in their garments.
The plaster casts of their remains are moving and deeply tragic — their clenched fists and feet attest to their suffering and bring humanity to the ancient tragedy, separated from us by so many years.
The bulk of remains recovered from Pompeii were found 150 years ago, making the recent discovery extremely significant for the study of the site, which was first excavated in the eighteenth century under the order of King Charles III of Spain.
Pompeii, home to around 13,000 people at the time of the eruption, has been the source of essential information regarding daily life in the Roman Empire in that the period, as the city remained extraordinarily well preserved after it was covered in ash from the volcano.