“Lady of the Rings” and the young “Madonna and Child” from Herculaneum. Vesuvius victims

This photo went around the world. Probably, there is no popular Internet resource where it would not be published. The Woman with Gold Rings (Lady of the Rings) is a victim of the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. But take a closer look at the photo and you will understand that something is clearly wrong here.

Someone even asked me: “What could the custom of wearing two rings on one finger mean?”

In fact, the rings are not at all on the finger, but on the metacarpal bone – i.e. palm bones! It is clearly impossible to put on rings in this way during life.

So how did they end up there?

Everything is much simpler, there is no mystery here. It was enough to look for early photographs of “Lady of the Rings”.

As you can see, everything is in order here – the rings are on the fingers, and on different ones. It looks like for a spectacular photo, at the request of a close-minded journalist, they put rings on the bone of the palm.

In addition, our Lady of the Rings is the owner of two wonderful gold bracelets with snake heads and a pair of gold earrings (most likely, with large pearls fixed on pins, unfortunately, the heat destroyed them).

The ring on the left is decorated with the image of a bird on a carnelian, on the right there is a ring with jasper.

The carnelian ring is closer.

Gorgeous snake bracelets:

One of them is closer to get a better look:

Also, the Lady of the Rings has beautiful white teeth, journalists immediately suggested that a beautiful young female aristocrat had died. After all, we all know that with dentistry in ancient times it was much worse, and with age, with teeth in ancient times, most had serious problems.

Found “Lady of the Rings” as well as “Legionnaire of Herculaneum” (see my previous post) on the shore near the boat docks, where more than 300 remains of the bodies of the inhabitants of the city have been preserved.

The boat docks of Herculaneum.

They are already closer.

The boat docks are arched rooms under the cliff. As you can see, excavations in Herklanum are carried out at great depths. If Pompeii was covered with a 5-6 meter layer of ash and pumice, here the city is buried under 20 meters of volcanic soil. This saved him from being robbed both in antiquity and in modern times.

But back to our Lady of the Rings. The study of her skeleton yielded very interesting results. She turned out to be about 45 years old.

Weird? Surprisingly, most of the inhabitants of Herculaneum had no dental problems. Caries was found in only 4% of the remains, which is even lower than with the corresponding modern representative sample. This is largely explained by the food of the inhabitants of this ancient Roman city – they practically did not eat sugar at all (honey was usually used as a sweetener), and also consumed seafood rich in fluoride.

The woman’s height was 157 cm, the analysis of the tooth enamel and her bones showed that she had been eating well and of high quality all her life, i.e. she was definitely not poor, which means that the version of the servant who stole the wealth of the mistress is not very likely. Judging by the condition of the pelvic bones, she gave birth at least two, and most likely three times.

Who is she, why did she stay on the shore, and did not leave immediately after the eruption began?

There are no answers to these questions. Maybe she underestimated the dangers, maybe she was collecting valuables and documents, maybe she was rushing around the city in search of relatives, but all this is not important today, because we will never know her name.



Let it not seem to you that all the inhabitants of Herculaneum could boast of the same excellent physical condition as our Lady of the Rings. Deep scratching marks were found on 22% of the skulls. Imagine how you have to itch to leave a mark on the bone? Most of the inhabitants of Herculaneum, alas, were heavily lice.

Traces of pathological changes in bones due to infection with brucellosis were also found in 16 skeletons. According to statistics, such changes are detected in less than 10% of those infected with this parasite (from dairy products, including cheese), that is, the infection is almost universal. Diseases of the lungs and bronchi have been identified in many machines, which can be seen even from the ribs. Oil lamps smoked very heavily, and pleurisy was more the norm than the exception, and the rich people of the city were sick with it as often as the poor.

But let’s talk in more detail about this find:

This girl with a baby in her arms was also found in the boat docks of Herculaneum. Some idle journalists even hastened to call her “Madonna of Herculaneum”.

In fact, she was found in one of the family groups of people who took refuge in the docks. Seven adults and five children: three are men, approximately 25, 30 and 35 years old; four – women aged 14, 16, 35, 40; children – 3, 5, 9, 10 years old; the youngest is about six months old. A three-year-old child (girl) was found to have gold earrings with pearl pendants, and a five-year-old boy – gold jewelry (amulets).

The baby was in the arms of the youngest girl (pictured above). But she’s not his mother for sure, she turned out to be only 14 years old at the time of death and the pelvic bones clearly say that she never gave birth. Big sister then? Do not hurry.

The 14-year-old girl was unlikely to be related to this family. According to the results of the analysis of the enamel of the teeth, it became clear that she was often undernourished up to 10-11 years old inclusive. In addition, the bones of her shoulders and forearms indicated that she was engaged in heavy physical labor, unlike everyone else nearby.

Do you understand already, my reader? Yes, most likely our teenage girl was a slave in a wealthy family.

But death, the great equalizer, made them all equal …

Skeletons in Herculaneum boat dock
Skeletons in Herculaneum boat dock

Author: Bald Kamrad (@LKamrad)

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