We know that Mount Vesuvius erupted almost 2,000 years ago. And that the ashes petrified the residents of the city of Pompeii. But it didn’t just happen to humans. Flora and fauna were also covered by a thick layer of ash and debris. This is evidenced by the pregnant turtle found in Pompeii.
Archaeologists working at Pompeii found the remains of the reptile buried under rocks. It had remained there undiscovered since 79 AD.
Hidden in a lair
how did they find the remains? They were excavating an area of the city that its ancient inhabitants rebuilt after an earthquake. It was around 62 AD, 17 years before the eruption of Vesuvius.
The 14 cm turtle had burrowed into a small subway lair. It was under a tent destroyed in that earthquake. It had one egg, suggesting that it died while searching for a quiet place to lay its young.
Mark Robinson is an archaeologist at Oxford University. He found remains of another tortoise at a nearby site in Pompeii in 2002. “It could have been a pet tortoise that escaped. And it made its way to the ruins of the great earthquake,” he said.
“Pompeii was substantially destroyed. It could not be completely rebuilt after the earthquake. The flora and fauna of the surrounding countryside had moved into the city.”
The finding illustrates the richness of Pompeii’s natural ecosystem in the post-earthquake period. “The whole city was a construction site. Some spaces were unoccupied. Wild animals could wander around, come in and try to lay their eggs,” said Gabriel Zuchtriegel. He is general director of the Pompeii Archaeological Park.
Revelation of the past
The revelation of the pregnant turtle found at Pompeii is a spectacular discovery. Joonas Vanhala is a Finnish Pompeii visitor who was passing by the site at the time of the discovery. He described what he saw. “They had just taken the shell off the animal. So what you could see was the skeleton and the egg,” Vanhala said. “It was a light brown, sandy color.” “If they hadn’t told me, I wouldn’t have recognized that as an egg.”