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NAPLES, Italy – The skeletal remains of what are believed to be a man and slave trying to escape the cataclysmic eruption of Mount Vesuvius were discovered in the ash at Pompeii, officials at the archaeological site in Italy said on Saturday.

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The men appear to have escaped the first fall of ash when the volcano initially erupted in 79 A.D. destroying the ancient Roman city, but died after a second blast the next morning.

Bone fragments from the two men were found during the excavation of the ruins of a once elegant villa overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The men were found lying on their backs next to each other buried in 6.5 feet of ash. The two victims were found in the same area as the remains of three harnessed horses in 2017.

“The victims were probably looking for shelter in the cryptoporticus, in this underground space, where they thought they were better protected,” said Massimo Osanna, an archaeologist and director general at the park.

Like other discoveries at the site, archaeologists used a technique pioneered in the 1800s of pouring liquid chalk into the void in the ash left by the decaying remains. The result makes the remains seem like statues, cementing the victims’ final moments.

From the latest plaster casts, archaeologists believe one of the men had compressed discs in his spine and was between 18 to 25 years old. From this, researchers think he did manual labor, like that of a slave. The other man is believed to be 30 to 40 years old and had a robust bone structure. He died with his hands on his chest and his legs bent and spread apart.

Mount Vesuvius is still an active volcano. Pompeii is still an active archaeological site with ongoing excavations. Currently, tourists are prohibited from visiting the park because of the coronavirus.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.