The arched chambers in the grass were where the Bay of Naples once was and where the skeletons were discovered
In 1709, a local resident was digging a well 50 feet deep and discovered the roof of a building in the forgotten city of Herculaneum. The city had been covered in a thick molten lava since 79 AD.
This photo shows the height of the volcanic stone that had to be excavated to uncover the city within
Around noon on August 24th, 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted, shooting boiling gas, ash and pumice high into the sky.
It was this deadly cloud of noxious gas that killed most residents of nearby Pompeii. At the time, the residents of the seaside town of Herculaneum had thought Mount Vesuvius was just a beautiful mountain to the east. They were still rebuilding from an earthquake 15 years earlier.
The volcanic mud soon flowed slowly down into the streets of Herculaneum completely preserving it until that day in 1709.
Excavation soon began and continued on and off over the next hundred years. Looters dug holes and snuck away with valuable jewels and paintings. Because few human remains were found during these early excavations, it was believed most of the inhabitants had escaped.
In the 1980's however, while excavating the shoreline of the Bay of Naples, they uncovered more than 120 human skeletons. They were discovered in arched chambers that were most likely used to store their fishing boats and may have being used to try and escape the boiling mud.
The skeletons show signs of thermal shock due to temperatures close to a thousand degrees fahrenheit. One skeleton found is believed to be a mother bending over to protect her child. They also found remains of a fetus, indicating she was pregnant.
Mount Vesuvius has had 8 major eruptions in the past 17,000 years. The most famous being the eruption of 79 AD. The most recent eruption was on March 17, 1944. For a week and a half, it rained down rocks the size of basketballs.
Since then, there has been no activity. Today 3,000,000 people live on or nearby the mountain, mostly because the soil is perfect for planting their crops.
Scientists monitor Mount Vesuvius for future volcanic activity and the odds are likely it will erupt again.
I think the residents of Herculaneum are crazy to be living anywhere near this active volcano,
but then again, who I am I to judge,
I live in California with the threat of an earthquake everyday.