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Skeleton found at Pompeii of man killed by erupting Mount Vesuvius 2000 years ago

Donna Coutts, June 1, 2018 8:00AM Kids News

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Valeria Amoretti works with a brush on the skeleton of a 35-year-old man found at Pompeii. Picture: AP media_cameraValeria Amoretti works with a brush on the skeleton of a 35-year-old man found at Pompeii. Picture: AP


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Archaeologists* have found the 2000-year-old skeleton of a man who was killed by an enormous rock at Pompeii, southern Italy, as he tried to flee the erupting volcano Mount Vesuvius.

They believe the 35-year-old man survived the first big explosion from Mount Vesuvius but was killed by a blast of hot ash lava and gas and was struck by a massive rock thrown down from the mountain. The archaeologists can see that the man had suffered from an infection in his tibia, or shin bone, which would have made running difficult or impossible.

The legs of a skeleton emerge from the ground beneath a large rock believed to have crushed the victim's bust during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79, which destroyed the ancient town of Pompeii, at Pompeii's archeological site, near Naples, on Tuesday, May 29, 2018. The skeleton was found during recent excavations and is believed to be of a 35-year-old man with a limp who was hit by a pyroclastic cloud during the eruption. (Ciro Fusco/ANSA via AP) media_cameraThe legs of a skeleton of a 35-year-old man visible beneath a big stone at the Pompeii archeological site. Picture: AP

The archaeological site’s director, Massimo Osanna, called it “an exceptional* find” that contributes to a better “picture of the history and civilisation* of the age”.

Photos of the skeleton show it partly beneath a 300kg block of stone believed to be the upright part of a doorway, which may have fallen on him after he died.

This trailer of a 2014 movie used computer-generated imagery to recreate what Pompeii and the volcano eruption looked like

Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79AD, killing thousands of people and covering the ancient* Roman town of Pompeii and surrounds in 4-6m of ash and volcanic rock. More than 1500 bodies have been found so far, but no one knows how many people died.

Pompeii was forgotten for 1500 years after the eruption. It was rediscovered in 1599 and again in 1748. The city is so well preserved because of the lack of air and moisture under the volcanic rock, allowing an amazing insight* into life in an ancient Roman city.

The discovery of the man’s skeleton follows several important finds in past weeks.

The body was found close to an alleyway of balconies unearthed* earlier this month that experts plan to restore* for public tours.

Supplied media_cameraPompeii with Mount Vesuvius in the background. Picture: supplied

Archaeologists also dug up an ancient horse outside the Pompeii city walls, which they were able to cast to recreate* its body by putting liquid plaster into the gaps left behind when it decomposed* after it was covered in volcanic ash.

The same technique has been used to recreate the final poses of many of Pompeii’s victims.

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In this picture taken Thursday, May 10, 2018, an archeologist works near the remains of a horse which were found in a stable of a Pompeii villa, near Naples, Southern Italy. Archeologists immediately made a plaster cast of the animal which appears  to be surprisingly big, and probably belonging to a high rank family. The Villa is located outside the walls north of the Pompeii archaeological park, in an area called Civita Giuliana, and was found thanks to the illegal diggings of a group of tomb robbers,  after an investigation conducted by Carabinieri police. The Villa and its stable were buried in the Vesuvio eruption of 79 AD, together with the city of Pompeii. (Cesare Abbate/ANSA via AP) media_cameraThe remains of a horse found in a stable of a Pompeii villa. Picture: AP


  • Pompeii has fascinated people since its rediscovery because it is a city frozen in time. Like other Roman cities and towns from that time, it was very well planned and laid out, with seemingly modern features.
  • Pompeii had a complex piped water system, a gym, a port and an open-air theatre or sports arena, called an amphitheatre.
  • Early excavations focused on grand public buildings and the homes of rich people but modern archaeologists are just as interested in how normal people lived.
  • It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been a major tourist attraction for 250 years.
  • About 2.5 million people visit every year.
  • Many documentaries have been made about it. It has featured in lots of books, TV series such as Doctor Who, and is mentioned in several songs. A 3D film called Pompeii was made in 2014.

ANOTHER STORY ABOUT ANCIENT PEOPLE: Solving the Stonehenge mystery

Pompeii, aerial view, naples, archeologic ruins of Pompeii in Italy media_cameraPompeii, in Southern Italy. Picture: istock


archaeologists: investigators of ancient artefacts

exceptional: extraordinary, really good

civilisation: the society and culture of a group

ancient: very old

insight: accurate and deep understanding

unearthed: uncovered, found

restore: bring back to how it was

recreate: make something again

decomposed: rot, break down



1. How do archaeologists believe the man died?

2. Why might he not have been able to run to safety?

3. How many people died?

4. Why is the city of Pompeii so well preserved?

5. How long has it been a tourist attraction? How many tourists visit each year?


Archaeologists have been studying the city of Pompeii for many years.

Read the article carefully to find all the facts mentioned that archaeologists have learned about Pompeii and what life in a Roman city was like in 79AD.

Make a list of these facts and use them to write a paragraph titled Pompeii in 79AD.

Can learning about the past help us today? Do you think it is important to study the past? Why/why not? Write your opinion in a few sentences.

Time: Allow 20 minutes

Curriculum links: English, The Humanities – History, Science

Extension: In recent weeks there has been a volcano erupting in Hawaii.

HERE’S THE KIDS NEWS STORY ABOUT THIS: Hawaiians flee volcano’s lava and toxic gas

Both the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79AD and the eruptions in Hawaii now are significant volcanic events, yet the experience for all involved would be very different. Draw up a chart to list some of the SIMILARITIES and DIFFERENCES between the experience of those in Pompeii in 79AD and those currently in Hawaii. Think about how life, technology and knowledge were different in 79AD compared to now. What would each group be seeing, hearing and feeling?

Time: Allow 20 minutes

Curriculum links: English, The Humanities – History, Science

Extra Resources: Further reading about Pompeii if possible


After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many wow words or ambitious pieces of vocabulary that you can find in yellow. Discuss the meanings of these words and see if you can use them orally in another sentence.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Pompeii, Stonehenge and the Great Barrier Reef are all World Heritage Sites.

In at least one sentence, tell us why you think it is important to study and preserve these places. No one-word answers. Use full sentences.

Extra Reading in history