The two earthquake victims found in Pompeii. Source: Archaeological Site of Pompeii

Earthquake, Not Volcano, Claimed Many Victims In Pompeii


Archaeologists in Pompeii have become acclimatized to uncovering the petrified remains of people who lost their lives in the 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius. However, these two bodies provide evidence that many were also killed in a massive earthquake that followed.

The archaeological site of Pompeii is located at the foot of Mount Vesuvius in southern Italy’s Campania region, near the coast of the Bay of Naples. After the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, this thriving Roman city was buried beneath several meters of ash and pumice . But this violent eruption only marked the beginning of Earth’s wrath, as it unleashed a devastating earthquake that compounded the catastrophe.

When Earth Doubles Down

The earthquake, with an estimated magnitude of 5 to 6, occurred right after the volcano exploded. It caused streets to crack open, and buildings were instantly pulverized, taking countless more lives. This huge seismic event amplified the chaos triggered by the volcanic eruption and it served to impale Pompeii's fate in history.

Now, archaeologists have unearthed the remains of two male bodies while digging in the ruins of Pompeii, reports the Archaeological Site of Pompeii . Forensic evidence suggests the men had died, not during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, but during the huge earthquake that followed.

The two earthquake victims excavated at Pompeii. (Archaeological Site of Pompeii)

The two earthquake victims excavated at Pompeii. ( Archaeological Site of Pompeii )

God Put His Foot Down

According to an article on entitled “ The Destruction of Pompeii—God’s Revenge?", the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD was a “curse." Roman priests were convinced that the two catastrophes were God's response to the Romans' destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Most bodies recovered at Pompeii have informed archaeologists about the violent eruption that saw many inhabitants of Pompeii dying from ‘lapilli’ (fragments of lava, ash and hot gas). But the discovery of these two male bodies held evidence of the damage caused by the massive earthquake that struck the region soon after the eruption.

An archaeologist examines one of the excavated victim’s skeletons. (Archaeological Site of Pompeii)

An archaeologist examines one of the excavated victim’s skeletons. ( Archaeological Site of Pompeii )

Crushed In The House Of Lovers

An article in La Presencia Latina explains that the two earthquake victims were recently unearthed during an excavation in the House of Chaste Lovers, on the north side of the Via dell’Abbondanza . Gabriel Zuchtriegel, the director of this excavation site, said modern excavation techniques “help us better understand the hell that completely destroyed the city of Pompeii in two days killing many inhabitants: children, women and men.”

Zuchtriegel said archaeologists have gathered evidence suggesting the two males, who were at least 55 years old, died from multiple trauma wounds after a wall collapsed. Researchers concluded that this event occurred “between the final phase of sedimentation of the lapilli and before the arrival of the pyroclastic currents which definitively buried Pompeii.” This discovery informs that during the eruption of Vesuvius, it was not only accumulated lapilli and pyroclastic currents that collapsed buildings, but also the effects of the earthquake.

Smashed Treasures On Charred Bodies

According to an article in Jerusalem Post , when the archaeologists were removing the cervical vertebrae and the skull from one of the two skeletons, they unearthed 6 coins and what was possibly a piece of cloth, as well as five fragments of glass paste. The researchers later determined that the glass once formed decorative beads from a necklace that had melted during the inferno.

Italian culture minister Gennaro Sangiuliano said “Pompeii is an immense archaeological laboratory” and that this discovery of two doomed Pompeiians shows “how much more” remains to be discovered at Pompeii. Historians estimate that Pompeii housed between 10,000 to 20,000 people at the time of the volcanic eruption and subsequent earthquake, and the remains of approximately 1,100 individuals have been discovered so far.

Top image: The two earthquake victims found in Pompeii. Source: Archaeological Site of Pompeii

By Ashley Cowie

ashley cowie's picture


Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

Next article