Archaeologists unearthed the remains of a pregnant tortoise and her egg beneath a house in the ancient city of Pompeii.
The discovery was made during the excavation of Pompeii’s Stabian baths, an ancient community bath house that featured heated water.
The excavation is a collaborative effort between the Free University of Berlin, the University of Napoli L’Orientale, the University of Oxford, and the Pompeii Archeological Site.
While archaeologists hoped to unearth more of the Stabian baths, they ended up discovering more than they bargained for when they found the remains of an ancient pregnant tortoise who’d become squished under a house before the devastating eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.
According to a press release, the tortoise died during the reconstruction of buildings that took place between the earthquake and the eruption in Pompeii. It’s believed the poor mother-to-be had crawled into the abandoned space in hopes of seeking refuge, but fate wasn’t kind to her.
However, her presence does give researchers a glimpse of life back when she was alive. As Gabriel Zuchtriegel, Director General of the Parco Archeologico Pompei, said in the press release:
“Evidently, not all the houses were rebuilt and areas, even the central ones of the city were little frequented, so much so that they became the habitat of wild animals; at the same time, the expansion of the baths is a testament to the great confidence with which Pompeii started again after the earthquake, only to be crushed in a single day in 79 CE.”
“The tortoise adds a piece to this mosaic of relationships between culture and nature, community, and environment that represent the history of ancient Pompeii,” Zuchtriegel added.