Italy’s Mount Vesuvius erupted almost 2,000 years ago, killing thousands of people in the ancient city of Pompeii. Recently, archaeologists were surprised to find the intact skull of one of the volcano’s many victims. They previously thought his head had been crushed by a large, carved stone as he fled the eruption.
The archaeologists initially nicknamed the skeleton “Pompeii’s Unluckiest Man.” The team’s theory about the man’s demise changed, though, when they found his undamaged skull under dirt near the stone. They suspect that a previous group of archaeologists studying the site had accidentally separated the man’s head from the rest of the skeleton about 200 years ago.
“Lots of the skeletons have been jumbled up over the past century, which can make it difficult to learn about people’s lives from their bones,” says Kristina Killgrove, an archaeologist at the University of North Carolina. With the unluckiest man’s complete skeleton recovered, scientists can begin piecing together his past.