Four skeletons have been excavated from the ash in the ruins of small shop near what was the ancient city of Pompeii, officials revealed on Friday (24 June 2016). Archaeologists say the human remains appear to be that of adolescents or young adults who sought shelter from the massive eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

The dig near the gate of Porta Ercolano, on the road linking Pompeii to nearby city of Herculaneum, began in May 2016. A lot of research had been carried out in the past in Pompeii to understand the lives of people who died in the tragic eruption, but archaeologists still have much to learn about this ancient Roman culture.

The latest field work – conducted by the École française de Rome, the Centre Jean Bérard and the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) – aimed to study the evolution and economic dynamics of a commercial area outside the walls of Pompeii. The team were surprised to discover remains of four individuals resting against the walls at the back of an ancient shop alongside gold coins and other artifacts. Luxurious possessions remained despite previous lootings

The eruption of Mount Vesuvius was one of the most spectacular and dramatic volcanic eruptions in all of European history. The Roman settlements of Pompeii and Herculaneum were completely destroyed and buried under volcanic ash. Previously, casts of human bodies turned into ash deposits, as well as bones and other remains belonging to more than a thousand people, have been recovered.

Discovery at Pompeii
Remains of four young adults have been discovered in a site near the former city of Pompeii Soprintendenza archeologica di Pompei
Discovery at Pompeii
Black pots were also found at the site Soprintendenza archeologica di Pompei

The archaeologists believe the individuals sought refuge in the ancient workshop, where they became trapped as volcanic ash, toxic gas and stones fell over the city. A study of the bones and teeth indicates they would have been quite young at the time of their death – possibly teenagers. Only the sex of two of these individuals, one girl and one boy, have been identified.

In the aftermath of the eruption, clandestine gold-diggers came to Pompeii to plunder the city. Roughly pushed back against a wall, the four skeletons appear to have been disrupted by these looters. However, the archaeologists were still able to uncover three gold coins dating back to 74-78 AD, a necklace with a gold-leaf pendent and funerary pots near the bodies. The archaeologists have said it is surprising that such rich and elaborate possessions managed to escape the gaze of the looters.

Discovery at Pompeii
Gold coins were discovered with the human remains in the shop Soprintendenza archeologica di Pompei

Bronze-objects workshop

Following the discovery of the skeletons, the team also gathered clues about what sort of shop the four youths took refuge in. They have identified a large vertical furnace accessible thanks to a couple of steps. This structure so far appears unique in Pompeii, and probably served to manufacture bronze objects.

Additionally, a large circular wall dug in the soil was uncovered. It was probably used in part to extract material from below the ground, but many questions remain regarding the way it worked and its exact purpose.

The archaeologists will now conduct further research in the workshop and nearby shops in order to better understand the economic environment at the time of the eruption. They hope this will yield more information about the culture of a civilisation completely annihilated by a tragic natural disaster.

Discovery at Pompeii
The well was made in the natural soil. Soprintendenza archeologica di Pompei
Discovery at Pompeii
In 2006, Naples staged a massive exercise to test the city's reaction to a potential volcanic eruption from Mount Vesuvius. 2430/Gamma-Rapho/Getty