…the next morning another wave of pyroclastic flow composed of hot gas and burning ashes rolled down from Mount Vesuvius.
On the morning of August 24 in the year 79 CE, a tremor shakes the ground under the town of Pompeii. Shortly afterwards Vesuvius erupts violently, sending plumes of smoke, ashes and glowing rocks high into the sky above. Cooled by the air and carried by the wind, fine ashes begins to fall over the town, soon to be followed by pyroclastic lapilli – heavy volcanic ashes – partially burying the town in a few short hours. But there was more to come from Vesuvius.
Pompeii in 79 was a thriving Roman town with paved streets and elegant villas situated near the shores of the Bay of Naples, only a few kilometres from the slopes of the slumbering volcano Vesuvius. The Pompeiians were used to earthquakes, perhaps to the extent that they ignored warnings of what was to come. In February in the year 62, a massive quakes caused extensive damage to the town’s buildings. Historians believe that reconstruction work were still being carried out at the time of the fateful eruption on that late summer’s day in 79.
The morning after the first blast, another wave of pyroclastic flow composed of hot gas and burning ashes rolled down from Mount Vesuvius, causing death by suffocation, wiping out all that was left of life in Pompeii. Shortly after a second wave hit the town, this one much more powerful than the first, travelling at a speed of 65-80 kmph, eventually sealing the fate of Pompeii under 4-6 metres of volcanic ashes.
A desolate, blackish landscape with nothing more than a hand-full of protruding walls here and there was all that remained of the bustling town of Pompeii and the nearby towns of Torre Annunziata and Herculaneum.
Forgotten for centuries
Pompeii was “rediscovered” in 1748 by the Spanish engineer Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre. He had already started excavation works some 10 years earlier, after he had discovered the remains of the town of Herculaneum (Ercolano) near Pompeii while he was planning the future estate of the Spanish King. Around 30% of Pompeii still remains to be excavated. The most important archaeological finds are kept at the National Archaeological Museum in Naples.
The destruction caused by the eruption notwithstanding, the Pompeii ruins still manages to paint a rather vivid and somewhat eerie picture of life in a Roman town that ended so abruptly almost two thousand years ago.
Pompeii – World Heritage
The archaeological areas of Pompei, Herculaneum (Ercolano) and Torre Annunziata were inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1997. Together they bear a unique testimony to a traditional human settlement, a cultural and an architectural ensemble which illustrates a significant stage in human history.
SOURCES & CREDITS
All photos © Asgeir Pedersen, Heredajo
This article was first published on May 04 2015.