Unlucky Pompeii victim wasn't crushed to death after all

The man's death was presumably not due to the impact of the stone block, as initially assumed.Facebook: Pompeii Parcho Archeologico

Earlier this year officials at the Pompeii archaeological site announced the discovery of the skeleton of a man who appeared to have been decapitated by a flying stone while trying to flee the explosion of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

But the same archaeologists have now found the victim's skull in pristine condition, leading them to believe he was not decapitated at all.

The initial findings were based on the positioning of a huge stone block next to the upper part of the man's skeleton.

Photo The man is believed to have suffered an infection of the tibia, impeding his escape.

The legs of a skeleton emerge from the ground beneath a large rock believed to have crushed the victim's bust. Ciro Fusco/ANSA via AP

The rock weighing almost 300 kilograms likely came from a doorjamb, archaeologists said, adding they thought the man's head had been crushed by the force of the falling rock.

This initial interpretation, however, now appears to be wrong, owing to the discovery of the man's undamaged skull.

Photo The skull was thought to have been crushed by the impact of the falling rock.

Archaeologist is seen brushing dirt from the skull. Facebook: Pompeii Parcho Archeologico

"In the early phase of the excavation it appeared that the upper part of the thorax and the skull, which had not yet been found, had been severed and dragged downwards by a stone block which had struck the victim," the Pompeii Archaeological Park explained in a Facebook post.

"This preliminary hypothesis arose from the observation of the position of the boulder compared to the empty space of the body impressed into the cinerite [the sedimentary rock surface].

"Upon further investigations, the skull has been found, positioned at a lower level than the rest of the body."

Researchers are now led to believe the unlucky man died not from a projectile, but from asphyxiation caused by the eruption.

"We believe he died from being suffocated by the dust and volcanic ash," Massimo Osanna, the director of the archaeological site, told the Telegraph.

Archaeologists now say an 18th-century tunnel discovered below the body caved in and caused the upper part of the skeleton to fall away.

Photo Anthropologist Valeria Amoretti works on the "exceptional find" at Pompeii's archaeological site, near Naples.

Anthropologist Valeria Amoretti works with a brush on a skeleton Ciro Fusco/ANSA via AP

Since the discovery of the skeleton, archaeologists have also discovered the remains of a small purse that the man "clutched close to his chest" containing 20 silver and two bronze coins.

While experts were still examining the coins, archaeologists said they appeared to have had enough value to maintain a family of three for two weeks.

Researchers said the man was at least 30 years old and appeared to suffer an infection of the tibia, which may have hampered any attempt at escape from the eruption.

Photo The skull was found positioned at a lower level than the rest of the body.

Upside down skull in the dirt of the volcano. Supplied: Pompeii Parcho Archeological

ABC/wires

Get the latest news delivered to your inbox

Follow us on social media networks

PREV Exclusive: Twitter deletes over 10,000 accounts seeking to discourage voting
NEXT Microdosing increases focus and reduces depression, stress and anxiety, study finds