Human Archaeology

May 25, 2015 – Almost 2,000 years ago, a cataclysmic natural disaster wiped the Roman city of Pompeii off the map. The once-bustling agricultural town was situated at the foot of Mount Vesuvius when it erupted in November of 79 A.D. The eruption entombed the city in about 20 feet of volcanic ash. Many residents who did not flee in time were killed instantly by the intense heat. The most chilling part of all is that the ash preserved their bodies perfectly. Each one is frozen in time. Stefano Vanacore, director of the laboratory of Pompeii Archaeological Site, carries a petrified victim of the eruption of Vesuvius volcano in 79 BC, during the restoration work and the study of 86 casts, on May 20, 2015 in Pompeii Archaeological site. AFP PHOTO / MARIO LAPORTA (Photo credit should read MARIO LAPORTA/AFP/Getty Images).

The location of Pompeii was forgotten until it was rediscovered by archaeologists in 1738. These days, Pompeii is one of the most popular tourist sites in Italy, and researchers continue to uncover and catalog the preserved remains of its former residents. This week, they made a startling, heartbreaking discovery.

They uncovered the preserved remains of a young child who was sitting on his mother’s lap when tragedy struck. They believe he was about four years old.

Researchers believe he ran to his mother as Vesuvius was erupting.

Even more tragically, the boy and his mother were found alongside the remains of his father and sibling.

“Even though it happened 2,000 years ago, it could be a boy, a mother, or a family. It’s human archaeology, not just archaeology,” said Stefania Giudice, conservator at the Naples National Archaeological Museum.

The tragic scene was uncovered during a restoration project of 86 preserved bodies at the site.

As researchers work on restoring these bodies, they are well aware of the emotional toll that the work can take.

“It can be very moving handling these remains when we apply the plaster,” Giudice told journalists.

These two held on tightly in their final embrace.

From our distant historical perspective, it’s easy to separate our modern world from what happened in Pompeii. It’s hard to imagine something so out of control happening today. Still though, it’s hard not have pity for these poor souls who probably had no idea what was happening until it was too late.