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Sunday, July 5, 2020

The provenance of skeletal remains in Pompeii

Today, I started listening to Mary Beard's "Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found" and Professor Beard brought up something I had not considered when thinking about the skeletal remains found in cubiculum (c) of the House of the Prince of Naples. Professor Beard pointed out that the discovery of skeletal remains was highly sought after by early royal visitors to the excavations in Pompeii.  I had thought about the motivation of excavators and the listed "finds" at the site but had not considered planted skeletal remains as well.

So, the "victim" found in the house could have been a looter as posited by Professor Strocka, a deceased patient as I have theorized based on the finds of surgical instruments and equipment found in the room and elsewhere in the townhouse, an owner or member of his household who returned to salvage property at the site, or merely planted remains by late 19th century excavators wanting to provide this particular thrill to the visiting Prince and Princess of Naples.

I remember reading Professor Penelope Allison's book about finds of skeletal remains in a group of 30 atrium houses including the House of the Prince of Naples and she wonders about the reason why holes in the surrounding walls are often present in rooms containing skeletons.  She says there might be the possibility that trapped victims might have made the holes. But, it looks to me like there is also the possibility the skeletal remains were deposited there on purpose to heighten the morbid imagination of royal visitors!

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