“When I arrived at Herculaneum in 2017 I realized that a lot of research went into the skeletons, but nobody thought of analyzing the tools found next to it,” Francesco Sirano, director of the archaeological site at Herculaneum, told NBC News. “So my team and I took a closer look, and what we found was astonishing.”
When the skeleton was discovered 30 years ago, several clues set it apart from the hundreds of others unearthed by archaeologists. It still had a leather belt around its waist, and by its side there were a sword with an ivory hilt, a decorated dagger and a bagful of coins. Still, the skeleton was put on permanent exhibition and identified as a generic soldier.
In-depth analysis revealed that the belt was once decorated with images of a lion and a cherub made of silver and gold. The sword’s scabbard was also decorated with the image of an oval shield.
“All these clues suggest that he was not a simple soldier, more likely a high-ranking officer, even a praetorian,” Sirano says, referring to the elite units who served as personal bodyguards to Roman emperors. “Praetorians wore oval shields. And the coins he had on him was coincidentally the same amount of a praetorian’s monthly wage.”
Whatever the rank of the officer, Sirano said there is no doubt that he was part of a rescue mission launched by a roman fleet following the eruption of the Vesuvius. Recommended2,000-year-old skeleton identified as senior Roman soldier on Vesuvius rescue mission