Boat docks is a series of covered arched buildings
intended to preserve
fishermen's boats against sea storms. This
was the ancient shore at the time of the eruption and this is
also the furthest that citizens of Herculaneum made it. When the
city was first discovered in the 18th century it was widely
believed that all people of the city managed to flee the volcano
mud slide unlike their neighbors in Pompeii. This assumptions
turned out to be erroneous. First skeleton in
was discovered in
1831 in the House of the Skeleton those pictures you can below.
However it was these boat houses that completely dispelled the
idea that most of the citizens of Herculaneum made to safety.
They merely took a refuge here. Their hopes for escape were
proven wrong. Instead of safe haven boat docks turned into a
death trap for dozens.
Herculaneum gave us interesting clues about
lives of the ancient people. Ancient Romans practiced cremation
so we have very few skeletal remains that made it to our days.
This is a rare exception. Analyzing the bones we can tell the
diets that people had, their lifestyle, a number of kids they
might have or any statistical anomalies. For example we an
interesting relatively low number of people in the age group of
16 to 25. If you take in consideration that the region was
struck by a powerful earthquake in 62/63 AD it would there is
such a drastic dip in birth rate and survival rate. People born
16- 17 years prior to the eruption or earlier probably had
higher mortality rate after food sources became scarce and
granaries with food were destroyed.
Forensic doctors also concluded that the average height for a
man in the city of Herculaneum was about 1.70 meters, while for a woman it was
around 1.55 meters. Children under the age of 10 years comprised
20.3% of population while another 8.4% of individuals were older
than 50 years. The bodies surprisingly had good teeth
despite low advancements in dental hygiene and care. However
they didn't eat a lot of sugar like we do today so the anaerobic
bacteria had less chances to proliferate around teeth. Increased
concentration of strontium in the bones of
indicated a diet rich in
sea food. On the negative side the bodies indicated a lead
poisoning. It was particularly visible in bodies those diets was
worse indicating their low socio- economic level. It is possible
that they got lead poisoning after drinking cheap wine that was
artificially sweetened by syrup that was boiled in lead pots.
Some of the their symptoms included abdominal pain, cognitive
difficulties, weight loss, fatigue, sluggishness and many
others. These further decrease their chance of surviving the
eruption and escaping to safety. About 27 % of all bodies had
some degree of hypoplastic line in the dental enamel. This would
suggest that lengthy childhood illnesses were quiet common.
also showed decreased rate of growing, however the
residents were taller than modern day Neapolitans.
One of the most famous victims in Herculaneum is
the "Ring Lady" on the top left photo. Judging by her bones
analysis and amount of gold that she wore, she must have been a
very rich person. She had good bones and fairly good teeth, but
there were signs of early periodontal disease. She was about 46
years old. At a height of 157 cm she was actually above average
for her time period and probably gave birth to two or three
children in her lifetime. She probably ran here in hopes to buy
herself boat ride across the bay to safety. Like many residents
Another notable body is that of a young teenage
girl who died while holding a baby in her arms. Judging by the
skeleton shape, the victim never gave
birth so it couldn't be her child. Furthermore girl's remains clearly point out to a very
harsh life and even malnourishment as a child. This lies in
drastic contrast to the bones of the baby she was holding. The baby was well
nourished and probably was a child of the owners who probably
had the girl as their slave in the household. Apparently the slave girl
tried to save master's baby, but they both were buried inside
Archaeologists who worked here also discovered an interesting skeleton is that of a
soldier. He was about 37 years old when he died. At his height
of 175 cm he was a giant by the standards of the time. He
carried a sword on his right side, uniform and a bag with
several coins. The man
served for a long time and his left femur (thigh) still carries
marks of a stab wound, probably a sword wound. Additionally three of
his front teeth were missing either due to a battle or a bar
fight. He lies at the entrance of the boat houses so it is
logically to assume that he was trying to organize people and
calm them down. Once he saw that everyone found their refuge he
also entered what looked like a safe haven for them.
Herculaneum boat was discovered in one of the docks in 1982. It
measured 9 metres in length and apparently was overturn by a
natural force of a volcanic avalanche. A skeleton of an oarsman
was discovered near by. There was also another body of a soldier
with a swords, belt and military uniform found next to him. It
is possible that the fisherman and a soldier were killed before
they could escape. It is somewhat strange that no one tried to
using this vessels after the death of its owner.
It is quiet probably that two men simply made runs across the
bay of Naples. On one of these runs they was caught by a pyroclastic flow that killed him.
Herculaneum boat is currently can be seen in a site museum known
as Padiglione Della Barca or a Boat Exhibit that's been on
display since 16 July 2009.