Eruption of Mount Vesuvius

The restored version of John Martin's Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)
The restored version of John Martin’s Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

On this date in the year 79, Mount Vesuvius erupted, burying several towns, most notably Pompeii.

Here are some things you may not know about Vesuvius.

There is disagreement over the exact date of the eruption. Some archaeologists argue that the evidence buried in Pompeii puts the eruption date as October 24, but traditionally the August date has been used.

The evidence for the October date includes the fact that those buried appear to have been wearing warmer clothing that they would have in August. Also, the fruit and vegetables preserved in the ash are those that would have been harvested in October.

The remains of about 1,500 people have been found at Pompeii and Herculaneum, but it’s impossible to estimate the total death toll.

The eruption was preceded by a large earthquake 17 years earlier which did serious damage to the city of Pompeii. Some damage from the earthquake had yet to be repaired when Vesuvius erupted. It was reported that 600 sheep died of “tainted air” in the vicinity, possibly from carbon dioxide released by the earthquake.

The eruption started on the morning of August 24. Around 1 p.m., the mountain exploded, sending up an ash plume that blanketed the area. Overnight, pyroclastic flows began, which knocked down everything in their paths. The eruption ended by that afternoon.

The city of Pompeii was buried by ash and abandoned. The city was eventually forgotten.

In 1599, a sewer project unearthed some of the ancient walls. However, they were filled back in and nothing more came of the discovery.

Herculaneum was uncovered in 1738 while building a summer palace for area royalty. 10 years later, Pompeii was re-rediscovered.

The lack of air and moisture left artifacts with little to no deterioration. However, since the cities’ rediscovery, the remains of the city have been rapidly deteriorating. Less than one-third of the buildings that were open to the public in the 1960s remain so today.

Our question: Mount Vesuvius is located near what major Italian city?


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