Archaeologists find remains of pregnant tortoise in Pompeii

Archaeologists in Pompeii have found the remains of a pregnant tortoise. It is believed that the tortoise had sought shelter in the wreckage of a house devastated by an earthquake in AD62. Unfortunately it appears that she was not able to find a safe place to lay her eggs, so she dies in the aftermath of the quake.

Seventeen years later, Mount Vesuvius erupted (AD 79), so the remains of the tortoise and her eggs, which were still in the wreckage of buildings that had still not been rebuilt, were smothered by volcanic ash and debris, which preserved them to this day.

The 14cm (5.5in) long Hermann’s tortoise and her eggs were found during excavations of a section of the historic city that was being reconstructed for the installation of public baths after being leveled by the earthquake, officials said on Friday. After the volcanic explosion in AD79, Pompeii was subsequently devastated.

“This lets us reflect on Pompeii in this phase after the earthquake but before the eruption, when many homes were being rebuilt, the whole city was a construction site, and evidently some spaces were so unused that wild animals could roam, enter and try to lay their eggs.”

The director of the Pompeii archaeological park, Gabriel Zuchtriegel (The Guardian)

The Free University of Berlin, University of Naples L’Orientale, and the University of Oxford are collaborating with archaeologists from the Pompeii archaeological park, in the excavations that are taking place in the Stabiane baths part of Pompeii, where the tortoise was found.

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