Pompeii breakthrough: ‘Incredible’ new villa exposed after historian probes secret tunnel

It came during the filming of Dan Snow’s new documentary “Pompeii’s Final Hours: New Evidence” which will air on Saturday on Channel 5. The famed historian and television presenter took cameras into a series of illegally dug tunnels used by thieves for the first time ever. But, when they led to a huge, completely unexcavated villa, Mr Snow could not believe his luck.

Speaking to Express.co.uk exclusively, he said: “It’s a bit controversial. I went into a tunnel used by robbers to burrow into the volcanic debris beneath Pompeii.

“We were the first TV crew to be allowed in there.

“I’m not that claustrophobic, but I tell you what – I was down there.

“It was no bigger than the circumference of my body and while we were down there I found some human remains, it was pretty intense.

I’m not that claustrophobic, but I tell you what – I was down there

Dan Snow

“This led to a giant villa which was previously unexcavated, just outside the official boundaries of Pompeii.”

Mr Snow explained how the main centre of Pompeii has been probed by archaeologists for years, but they have only unearthed around “five percent” of the buried civilisation.

Now, archaeologists are widening their searches to the bordering cities.

He added: “This is one of the thousands of villas that no one knew about, hiding below modern Naples.

“It’s the first time that anyone’s ever seen it, it’s absolutely gigantic.

“I followed the robber tunnels through it into various rooms, where the robbers had hacked off various bits of art on the wall.

“But there was one piece of art they missed and I was the first person to see that in 2,000 years, so it’s incredibly exciting.”

Mr Snow continued, stating that there is so much more to come out of Pompeii in the future.

He added: “There’s a whole city, it’s like Pompeii was buried, but so were around 1,000 other villas of which only about five or six have been excavated.

“So you are always making unbelievable discoveries and you can use modern technology to find things.

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“Pompeii was a city, and all the villas around it were like the Hamptons, or Sandbanks.

“They’ve only been into about five or six of those villas, there’s another thousand down there.

“The robbers have basically done the archaeologist’s job for them, so now they just have to follow them and expand the tunnels.”

In 79AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted in one of the deadliest volcanic eruptions in history, sprawling a cloud of superheated tephra and gases to a height of 21 miles. 

This natural disaster ejected molten rock, pulverised pumice and hot ash at 1.5 million tonnes per second, obliterating Roman settlements and burying thousands under the burning rubble. 

However, the horrific event also covered the city in a blanket of thick material, leaving the opportunity for so much more to be discovered.

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