Partially Mummified Skeleton With White Hair Found in Pompeii Surprises Archaeologists

Archaeologists recently discovered the partially mummified skeleton of a former slave in the ancient city of Pompeii. The skeleton, which has been described as one of the "best-preserved skeletons" to ever be found in the city, has both excited and surprised experts.

Pompeii Sites, the official Twitter account for the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, shared photos of the discovery Tuesday.

"Mummified remains, along with the hair and bones of an individual buried in an ancient tomb have been found at the necropolis of Porta Sarno, to the east of the ancient urban centre of #Pompeii," the park tweeted.

Mummified remains, along with the hair and bones of an individual buried in an ancient tomb have been found at the necropolis of Porta Sarno, to the east of the ancient urban centre of #Pompeii. pic.twitter.com/GWOJbqQCm0

— Pompeii Sites (@pompeii_sites) August 17, 2021

"This is the latest discovery at #Pompeii, which took place during an excavation campaign carried out in the Porta Sarno Necropolis area, on the initiative of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii and the European University of Valencia," the park continued in a follow-up tweet.

A marble slab found on the tomb identifies that the remains belonged to a man named Marcus Venerius Secundio. According to Irish Times, the tomb is believed to date back to the final decades of the city, before it was destroyed by Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.

Experts also state that the skeleton was found with white hair and part of an ear, along with fabric fragments. Experts with the Archaeological Park of Pompeii called the remains "one of the best-preserved skeletons ever found in the ancient city."

"Even for those like me, who have been specialized in funerary archaeology for some time, the extraordinary wealth of information offered by this tomb, from the inscription to the burials, the osteological finds and the painted façade, is exceptional," said University of Valencia Professor Llorenç Alapont in an official statement released by the Archaeological Park of Pompeii.

Archaeologists were surprised to find such well-preserved remains, says The Guardian, because Romans were often cremated. The fact that he was buried in a tomb symbolizes that he attained a high social and economic status. But he wasn't born into wealth.

Scientists discovered that Secundio was a former slave; however, he was eventually freed and joined a group of priests responsible for emperor worship.

Additionally, the inscription found on the marble slab of his tomb "makes reference, extraordinarily, to performances at #Pompeii that were conducted in #Greek," tweeted Pompeii Sites. This find is particularly exciting to historians.

"It is the first clear evidence of performances at Pompeii in the Greek language, which had previously been hypothesized on the basis of indirect indicators," said Gabriel Zuchtriegel, the director of Archaeological Park of Pompeii said in the official statement. "Here we have another tessera of a large mosaic, namely the multi-ethnic Pompeii of the early Imperial Age, where Greek, the then lingua franca of the eastern Mediterranean, is indicated alongside Latin.

"That performances in Greek were organized is evidence of the lively and open cultural climate which characterized ancient Pompeii," he continued.

The discovery will help archaeologists and historians gain a better understanding of the city that has been studied and mythologized by so many.

"Pompeii never ceases to amaze, and has confirmed her place in a story of redemption, as an international role model, and a place where research and new archaeological excavations are taking place once more," said Dario Franceschini, Italy's minister of culture.

Pompeii was granted world heritage status by UNESCO in 1997. According to UNESCO's official website, Pompeii is "the only archaeological site in the world that provides a complete picture of an ancient Roman city." As such, it receives funding and is protected to ensure that its integrity is preserved for generations to come.

ruins of pompeii
Archaeologists recently discovered the partially mummified skeleton of a former slave in the ancient city of Pompeii. Pictured above is a general view of the Via dell'Abbondanza in Pompeii. Ivan Romano / Contributor/Getty