The incredibly well-preserved remains of an ancient Roman man have been discovered in a tomb in Pompeii. He is partially mummified and believed to be in the best condition of anyone ever found during Pompeiian excavations. The Pompeii archaeological park and the European University of Valencia are responsible for the discovery.
His name was Marcus Venerius Secundio and he was found in the Porta Sarno necropolis. Archeologists believe that he was about 60 years old and that he died at least decades before the devastating eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE, an eruption famously known about from Pliny the Younger’s letter to Tacitus.
The claim of incredible preservation is based on the fact that his white hair has survived almost 2,000 years to our present day. Part of his ear has made it to us too.
Additionally, an urn made of glass bearing the name Novia Amabilis was also found in the tomb, possible Secundio’s wife.
Secundio is believed to have once been a slave who worked as the custodian for the Temple of Venus. Later in his life, he was freed from slavery and managed to join a college of priests known as the Augustales who focused on emperor worship.
Aside from the condition he was found in, the archeologists consider this find altogether unusual because cremation was the most popular go-to for deceased adults in ancient Rome.
At the top of the tomb was a marble slab engraved with a dedicatory inscription to Secundio. According to Gabriel Zuchtriegel, the director of Pompeii archaeological park, this slab contains the first strong evidence that theatrical performances were being done in Greek instead of Latin.
“That performances in Greek were organized is evidence of the lively and open cultural climate which characterized ancient Pompeii.”
– Gabriel Zuchtriegel (2021)
Pompeii is one of the main sites that influence our present day knowledge of the ancient Roman empire. Given that it was officially rediscovered in 1761, it’s amazing that new discoveries are still being made there.
“During a period of 1669 years Pompeii remained buried and entirely forgotten, not withstanding that its site, probably ever since its destruction, had always borne the name of Civita, or the City. … Ruins were also discovered in 1689, and even an inscription with the name of POMPEI; but these indications were disregarded like the former.”
Thomas H. Dyer (1868)
You might have heard some variation of the above rumor that Pompeii was lost for almost 1,700 years until its 18th century rediscovery. This is a rumor that can be easily dispelled by a short look at the evidence. The Peutinger Table, Leone’s Map of 1514, Ligorio’s Map of 1570, Lafreri’s Map of 1575, Cluver’s Map of 1603, and Mascolo’s Record of 1633 all show that Pompeii’s location was known to at least a handful of people as early as the 1200’s, if not earlier (possibly the 300’s or 400’s). Read more about this here.
The burial instead of cremation, the high level of preservation, and the new evidence of Greek theatre in ancient Rome will all give archeologists and historians something to study for many years to come. As of now, the news is fresh and brief. I’m not aware of any samples being submitted to radiocarbon analysis.
If the remains and artefacts are subjected to forensic and humanistic sciences, it will be fascinating is revealed about these unique discoveries.
The cover photo for this article was taken by Cesare Abbate. It shows an archeologist in the tomb with Secundio.
Check out more recent news:
 – Giuffrida, Angela. “Human remains in tomb are best-preserved ever found in Pompeii” (17 Aug. 2021). https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/aug/17/human-remains-in-tomb-are-best-preserved-ever-found-in-pompeii. Accessed 17 Aug. 2021.