Archaeologists in Pompeii had found the remains of a pregnant tortoise that had sought refuge in the wastes of a home destroyed by an earthquake in 62 AD, only to be wrapped by volcanic ash and rock when Mount Vesuvius exploded 17 years later.
The 14-centimeter long (5.5-inch long) Hermann’s tortoise and her egg was found during excavations of an area of the ancient city that was being refurbished for the construction of public baths after the earthquake wrecked Pompeii, officials said Friday.
Pompeii was therefore destroyed for good after the volcanic eruption in AD 79.
Archaeologists believe the tortoise, a notable species in Europe, had sought shelter in the rubble of a home that was too badly damaged from the quake to be restored.
Pompeii’s director-general, Gabriel Zuchtriegel, said, “the fact that she still had her egg suggested she died before finding a safe, hospitable place to lay it.”
“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,” he said.
It’s not the first tortoise to be discovered in Pompeii, and Zuchtriegel said an important focus of new excavations and research involves the organic and agricultural materials found outside Pompeii’s urban center.
The finding of the tortoise, he said, adds to “this mosaic of relations between culture and nature, community and environment that represents the history of ancient Pompeii.”