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Roman merchant who was beheaded by flying rock while fleeing Pompeii had 'treasure trove' of silver coins
JAY GORY, MANAGING EDITOR, science
An unfortunate Roman who was decapitated by a giant slab of stone as he tried to flee Pompeii was carrying a “treasure trove” of silver and bronze coins when he died, archeologists announced on Friday. The skeleton of the man, partially buried beneath by the 300kg rock, was found earlier this week, in what was hailed as a “dramatic and exceptional discovery”. Archeologists believe the man, aged in his thirties, was attempting to flee the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in AD79 but was impeded by an infection in his leg bone. As experts excavated beneath the skeleton, they found the remains of a leather pouch which he had been carrying, perhaps around his neck, when a flying stone door jamb hurtled through the air and beheaded him. The pouch contained 22 silver and bronze coins which together were worth 80 sestertii, equivalent to around 500 euros in today’s money. The stone slab decapitated the unfortunate Roman, archeologists said Credit: Pompeii press office It would have been enough to sustain a family of three for at least a fortnight, experts said. The man may have been a merchant desperate to save a portion of his family’s wealth as he tried to flee the burning hot cloud of ash that descended on the city after the volcano erupted. Archeologists also found a key that may have come from the man’s home. “He wasn’t filthy rich but neither was he poor,” said Massimo Osanna, the director of the archeological site south of Naples. The money emerged as archeologists dug beneath the skeleton in an effort to remove it to a laboratory for analysis. The coins and the decomposed remains of the leather pouch will also be analysed. Some of the coins dated back to the 2nd century BC, while others were more recent and bore the likenesses of the emperors Augustus and Vespasian. The skeletons of two men were found in the tomb on the outskirts of Rome Credit: Superintendency of Rome In Rome, meanwhile, archeologists made another unusual discovery – an underground tomb, with skeletons and offerings to the gods, that dates back to the 4th century BC. Apart from a small amount of subsidence, the tomb is intact and remains as it was when it was sealed more than 2,000 years ago. Archeologists described the find, which was made on the outskirts of the capital during digging for cables by an electricity company, as “extraordinary”. Ceramic bowls and plates, as well as the remains of animal bones, were found in the tomb Credit: Superintendency of Rome They have nicknamed the underground cavern “the Tomb of the Athlete” after discovering a pair of iron strigils – instruments with a curved blade that Roman and Greek athletes used for scraping off sweat and dirt after their workouts. “The tomb discovered in Rome is … virtually intact and dates back to the Republican era,” said Francesco Prosperetti, a senior heritage official. “We’ve called it the Tomb of the Athlete because of the two strigils which were used to scrape off sweat and animal fat after physical exercise.” Alongside the skeletons, archeologists found the remains of food offered to the gods, including the bones of rabbits, chickens, lambs and goats, as well as ceramic plates and bowls. A bronze coin depicting Minerva was also found in the tomb Credit: Superintendency of Rome They also recovered a 4th century BC bronze coin decorated with the helmeted head of the goddess Minerva. One of the men was aged around 50 while the other was aged 30-39. Finding a tomb that is intact is rare, because many discovered in the past are either damaged by subsidence or robbed of their artefacts by tomb raiders. read more
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