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Matt & Andrej Koymasky
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April 10th, 2017

Pompeii never ceases to amaze us

Pompeii was a flourishing Roman city from the 6 th century BC until it became frozen in time, preserved by the layers of ash that spewed out from the great eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Thousands were killed when molten rock, volcanic ash and deadly gases engulfed the Roman town in a fiery eruption that lasted two days. The gas was 300 degrees centigrade (572 degrees F). Clearly, from the expressions of their faces and their bodily contortions they were caught by surprise when the ash cloud finally consumed them.

During the violent eruption of Vesuvius many victims were buried beneath layers of ash that gradually hardened into pumice and encased their bodies. Over time the soft tissue of the bodies disappeared and in a pioneering technique archaeologists began pouring plaster into the cavities during the 19th century. Once the plaster hardened, the archaeologists chipped away at the surrounding pumice to extract detailed casts of the victims and these are the bodies that are being examined by the scientific team today.

Archaeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli found the bodies in 1863 and came up with a way to detect and extract the bodies intact from their resting places in Pompeii. Scientists also found animals, including a dog and a pig. The animals were restored for purposes of archaeology and science, Superintendent Osanna said.

Massimo Osanna, the superintendent of archaeology in Pompeii and nearby towns said: "Until now they had never been surveyed, out of a sense of ethics with which these human remains were always treated. They are not statues of plaster or bronze, but real people who should be treated with respect."

Although Pompeii was initially rediscovered at the end of the 16 th century, it was only properly excavated in the 18 th century. Excavators were startled by the sexually explicit frescoes they were unearthing, quite shocking to the sensibilities of medieval citizens of Rome, so they quickly covered them over.

When excavations resumed nearly two centuries later, archaeologists found the city almost entirely intact - loaves of bread still sat in the oven, bodies of men, women, children, and pets were found frozen in their last moments, the expressions of fear still etched on their faces, and the remains of meals remained discarded on the pavement. The astounding discovery meant that researchers could piece together exactly what life was like for the ancient Romans of Pompeii - the food they ate, the jobs they performed and the houses they lived in.

" The lovers " during their discovery, in 1914.

The DNA revealed that one of the most famous moldings of the victims of the eruption of Vesuvius was that of two young men, who died in hugging almost 2000 years ago. The archaeologists do not exclude that they were an homosexual couple.

Among the victims of the eruption of Vesuvius of the year 79, this moving archaeological discovery had created a sensation, in 1914. Both silhouettes found in the House of the Cryptoporticus had been nicknamed "The lovers". It was obvious to the fascist authorities who came to power a few years later that that they were a woman and a man. As for the discoverer of the rests, the archaeologist Vittorio Spinazzola, (when he was superintendent at Pompeii in the early 20th century) had formed the hypothesis that it was two women, probably a mother and his daughter. So this casts was renamed "Two Maidens".

Become a symbol of tragic motherly love, these human rests were rarely shown and studied. However, the Superintendent of the excavations of Pompeii, Massimo Osanna, on April 6, 2017, delivered the results of genetic analyzes carried out during an exhibition of the organic remains trapped in the mold. "Pompeii never ceases to amaze us," said Osanna, "We always imagined that it was an embrace between women. But a CAT scan and DNA have revealed that they are in reality two males. Their age was considered at 18 for one and 20 years for the other one. A CAT scan revealed that theu ara both males, and the DNA excluded that they are of the same family." - "You cant say for sure that the two were lovers. But considering their position, you can make that hypothesis. It is difficult to say with certainty."

One of the two bodies is lying at a right angle to the other and seen with his head resting on the other's chest in search of comfort and perhaps protection.

"We cannot assert that the two characters were lovers, but considering their position, we can suppose it. However, it's hard to know for sure." explains Osanna. More than nineteen centuries later, the secret of their embrace continues. " The only thing which resists time is love." he concludes.

The embrace of two bodies, revealed by a molding in plaster.

Professor Stefano Vanacore, head of the Pompeii research team, said it was impossible to determine the nature of the relationship between the two men. "When this discovery was made, that they were not two young girls, some scholars suggested there could have been an emotional connection between the pair," he said. "But we are talking about hypotheses that can never be verified. What is certain is that the two parties were not relatives, neither brothers, nor a father and son."

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