Ancient Rome: Pompeii Archaeologists Unearth Child Skeleton From Ashes of Vesuvius

4_25_Child Skeleton Pompeii
The remains of a child aged seven or eight are pictured in Pompeii. Parco Archeologico di Pompei

In August 79 AD, a young child aged seven or eight fled through the streets of Pompeii amidst the chaos of the erupting Mount Vesuvius. Although he found shelter in the city's Central Baths, the child's efforts were in vain. The youth was eventually submerged in a pyroclastic flow—a mix of turbulent gas and volcanic matter far more dangerous than lava.

Or at least, that's the first hypothesis of researchers working with a newly-unearthed skeleton of a young child that's laid under the ancient city for centuries.

The skeleton, which lay just four inches below the ground, was found during a cleaning operation, The Parco Archeologico Di Pompei said in a statement.

Researchers think the body was probably already intercepted during excavations back in the 1800s. But, for reasons unknown, the bones were left unexcavated. This may be because the layer of volcanic material made it hard to take a cast of the bones.

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Archaeologists, anthropologists, volcanologists and other specialists are currently using cutting-edge technology to add new insight to scientist's understanding of the city and its devastating obliteration, Massimo Osanna, director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, said in the Italian-language statement. "Pompeii is at a breakthrough for archaeological research," he added.

Researchers aim to uncover a a 263,000-square-yard area in the north of the city using technology including drones, laser scanning and ground-penetrating radar techniques, Repubblica TV reports.

In 79 AD the citizens of Pompeii were no strangers to violent tectonic activity. Just seventeen years before this famous eruption, a powerful earthquake struck the area, seriously damaging Pompeii and Herculaneum according to Encyclopaedia Britannica. The 79 AD eruption itself—which lasted two days—coated the city in an a sarcophagus of ash and pumice some 23 feet deep.

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The eruption trapped some 1,500 residents of Pompeii and Herculaneum who didn't escape the carnage. Their bodies lay undisturbed for hundreds of years before the ruined cities were first excavated in the 16th century.

Vesuvius still presents a danger to Italy's Bay of Naples. Its most recent major eruption flattened a number of nearby villages in 1944. According to the Independent, some 600,000 people live in Mount Vesuvius' "red zone"—the areas most at risk in the event of an eruption.