Falling rock didn't actually kill the world's unluckiest man, say archaeologists

The poor soul's skeleton was discovered by archaeologists in Pompeii.
The poor soul's skeleton was discovered by archaeologists in Pompeii. Photo credit: AAP

It turns out the world's so-called unluckiest man wasn't actually killed by the rock found atop his ancient skeleton, it turns out.

His remains were found in May at the Pompeii archaeological site in southern Italy's Campania region, which once stood as a thriving Roman city.

A massive brick believed to have been violently expelled by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79AD was wedged into the rock, making for a horrific yet somewhat humorous scene.

It was presumed the rock had crushed his skull - but archaeologists soon found the skull wasn't there.

It was located at a lower level of the dig, believed to have fallen down into a tunnel dug during the first excavations of the site in the 1700s.

So what killed him then? It's now believed a pyroclastic flow got to him first. That's a "superheated hurricane-force wind carrying ash and rock that can destroy almost anything in its path", Benjamin Andrews, director of the Smithsonian Institution Global Volcanism Program, told National Geographic.

"If you are in a pyroclastic flow, you will almost certainly die."

And if you don't, there's always a massive rock from the sky to finish you off, as this poor soul found out.

Pompeii is considered one of the most significant proofs of Roman civilisation, providing crucial information on the art, customs, trades and everyday life of people living 2000 years ago.