Bodies of man and his slave unearthed from ashes at Pompeii

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The casts of what are believed to have been a rich man and his male slave fleeing the volcanic eruption of Vesuvius nearly 2,000 years ago, are seen in what was an elegant villa on the outskirts of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii destroyed by the eruption in 79 A.D., where they were discovered during recents excavations, Pompeii archaeological park officials said Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (AP)
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This undated photo handout on November 21, 2020 by the Pompeii Archaeological Park shows a cast of one of the bodies of two men, a 40-year-old master and his young slave, after they were found during recent excavations of a Villa in Civita Giuliana in the outskirts of Pompeii, as Park officials said conditions were optimal to get casts of the victims, following the technique perfected in 1863 by Giuseppe Fiorelli. (AFP)
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This undated photo handout on November 21, 2020 by the Pompeii Archaeological Park shows casts of the bodies of two men, a 40-year-old master and his young slave, after they were found during recent excavations of a Villa in Civita Giuliana in the outskirts of Pompeii, as Park officials said conditions were optimal to get casts of the victims, following the technique perfected in 1863 by Giuseppe Fiorelli. (AFP)
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Updated 22 November 2020

Bodies of man and his slave unearthed from ashes at Pompeii

  • Pompeii officials said the men apparently escaped the initial fall of ash from Mount Vesuvius then succumbed to a powerful volcanic blast that took place the next morning

ROME: Skeletal remains of what are believed to have been a rich man and his male slave attempting to escape death from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius nearly 2,000 years ago have been discovered in Pompeii, officials at the archaeological park in Italy said Saturday.
Parts of the skulls and bones of the two men were found during excavation of the ruins from what was once an elegant villa with a panoramic view of the Mediterranean Sea on the outskirts of the ancient Roman city destroyed by the volcano eruption in 79 A.D. It’s the same area where a stable with the remains of three harnessed horses were excavated in 2017.
Pompeii officials said the men apparently escaped the initial fall of ash from Mount Vesuvius then succumbed to a powerful volcanic blast that took place the next morning. The later blast “apparently invaded the area from many points, surrounding and burying the victims in ash,” Pompeii officials said in a statement.
The remains of the two victims, lying next to each other on their backs, were found in a layer of gray ash at least 2 meters (6.5 feet) deep, they said.
As has been done when other remains have been discovered at the Pompeii site, archaeologists poured liquid chalk into the cavities, or void, left by the decaying bodies in the ash and pumice that rained down from the volcano near modern-day Naples and demolished the upper levels of the villa.
The technique, pioneered in the 1800s, gives the image not only of the shape and position of the victims in the throes of death, but makes the remains “seem like statues,” said Massimo Osanna, an archaeologist who is director general of the archaeological park operated under the jurisdiction of the Italian Culture Ministry.
Judging by cranial bones and teeth, one of the men was young, likely aged 18 to 25, with a spinal column with compressed discs. That finding led archaeologists to hypothesize that he was a young man who did manual labor, like that of a slave.
The other man had a robust bone structure, especially in his chest area, and died with his hands on his chest and his legs bent and spread apart. He was estimated to have been 30- to 40-years-old, Pompeii officials said. Fragments of white paint were found near the man’s face, probably remnants of a collapsed upper wall, the officials said.
Both skeletons were found in a side room along an underground corridor, or passageway, known in ancient Roman times as a cryptoporticus, which led to to the upper level of the villa.
“The victims were probably looking for shelter in the cryptoporticus, in this underground space, where they thought they were better protected,” said Osanna.
Instead, on the morning of Oct. 25, 79 A.D., a “blazing cloud (of volcanic material) arrived in Pompeii and...killed anyone it encountered on its way,” Osanna said.
Based on the impression of fabric folds left in the ash layer, it appeared the younger man was wearing a short, pleated tunic, possibly of wool. The older victim, in addition to wearing a tunic, appeared to have had a mantle over his left shoulder.
Mount Vesuvius remans an active volcano. While excavations continue at the site near Naples, tourists are currently barred from the archaeological park under national anti-COVID-19 measures.


Bosnian ‘energy pyramids’ boosted by tennis superstar Novak Djokovic’s visits

Updated 25 November 2020

Bosnian ‘energy pyramids’ boosted by tennis superstar Novak Djokovic’s visits

  • Tennis star Novac Djokovic has made two trips this year, hailing the site as a ‘paradise on earth’

VISOKO, Bosnia and Herzegovina: With tree-covered slopes that rise to a pointed summit, the mountain overlooking the Bosnian town of Visoko resembles any other ordinary hillside in the Balkan state.
Yet thousands of yearly visitors – including high-profile stars like Serbian tennis champion Novak Djokovic – don’t see it that way.
Despite scientists’ efforts to debunk the claims, large numbers of people still believe the hill is part of an ancient man-made pyramid complex with healing powers.
Djokovic, who is known for his new-age spiritual interests, has made two trips this year, hailing the site as a “paradise on earth.”
The mountain is now part of a controversial pyramid park founded by Semir Osmanagic, a 60-year-old self-styled explorer who “discovered” the site just outside of Sarajevo in 2005.
“I saw this hill covered with fir trees and vegetation, its slopes perfectly oriented toward the cardinal points,” Osmanagic, wearing a leather jacket and Indiana Jones-style hat, said on a recent weekend while leading a tour group through the site.
“It was obvious to me that it was not a natural hill but the construction” of a “technologically superior civilization,” he said, insisting it is the “largest and oldest pyramid ever built.”
Archaeologists have long ago disputed this theory as pseudo-science, saying the hill is a natural geological structure.
In a letter to Bosnian authorities in 2006, European archaeologists denounced the support given to a “cruel hoax on an unsuspecting public” that “has no place in the world of genuine science.”
But this did not prevent Osmanagic, previously a US-based businessman, from carrying out “archaeological excavations” on the hill with hundreds of volunteers from abroad.
He bought a piece of surrounding land, which includes a network of tunnels he says emit a curative energy force, and a few years later opened the park through his “Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun” foundation.
Today, the park is buzzing with visitors, who have come in even higher numbers since two recent trips from Djokovic.
In July and October, Djokovic made pilgrimages to the park and invited “all athletes” to take advantage of the healthy oxygen levels.
“I know there are many doubts and dilemmas about the authenticity (of the place),” he said in October.
But “in order to fully understand what is going on here... you have to come.”
After a quiet spring subdued by the pandemic, weekend crowds are back at the park, consisting mostly of visitors from the region.
“The beginning of the season was catastrophic, but since Djokovic has been here, it’s been a joy,” says Nermin Alihodzic, 47, who sells tourists colorful mini-pyramids and pieces of quartz.
While the government stopped backing the park over a decade ago, local authorities have helped finance the construction of roads, parking lots and other infrastructure to encourage tourists.
A five-euro ($5.94) entry fee for the whole park also includes access to the underground tunnel network which Osmanagic claims emit healing electromagnetic waves.
In his tour of the park, Osmanagic takes groups down to the chambers, urging them to hold their hands over a smooth rock and feel the “energy” rising.
Dzenana Halepovic, a 67-year-old from Sarajevo, is a frequent visitor.
In the tunnels “I feel good, I breathe well, I feel light. I simply feel like I’m receiving energy there,” she said.
For Enver Imamovic, a professor emeritus of archaeology at the University of Sarajevo, the project is pure scam.
The tunnels are likely “remnants of an ancient gold mine” while wedges of stones on the hillside, which believers consider to be the building blocks of the pyramid, are “nothing more than natural geological formations,” he said.
“Everything that is said about the pyramids is absolutely unacceptable.”
Founder Osmanagic has also been promoting the site as a place to “boost immunity” during the coronavirus pandemic.
While he insists no cures are guaranteed, he cites other alleged miracles in which people have been healed of ailments like hypertension, diabetes or even cancer after a trip to the underground tunnels.