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Citizens of Pompeii Are Still Fossilized by Volcanic Ash After Thousands Of Years

Most of the written records that have come from ancient Rome to us mainly revolve around politics and powerful, upper class people. But, we fail to take into consideration all the information we can gather from Pompeii, the city frozen in time from which we can understand so much about the poor people and the conditions of the slaves of 2,000 years ago in that place.

At first, it was believed that Pompeii no longer existed as it endured one of the worst volcanic eruptions of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. The entire town was buried under around 20 feet of volcanic ash. However, in the 18th century, it made its presence visible again and surprisingly, it was well-preserved. It had homes, shops and even fossils of the residents that date back since the eruption happened.

Plaster casts of victims, Pompeii, Italy. Photo by Tyler Bell CC BY2.0

Mount Vesuvius erupted on August 24, 79 AD. And to this day, it’s still the deadliest volcanic eruption to have ever happened. Its force is even comparable to that of the atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that were exploded during the WWII.

Plaster cast of Pompeii resident. Photo by klndonnelly CC BY2.0

In that eruption, thousands of people were killed; some from the hearing, some from the poisonous gas, some from the hot ash, and some because simply couldn’t escape. There was destruction even in the nearby cities of Stabiae, Herculaneum, and Oplonti.

All the information that we know today about Pompeii is all thanks to Pliny the Younger. He managed to observe the tragedy from the Bay of Naples and write everything that was happening down.

Body shapes of victims after the Mount Vesuvius eruption, Pompeii, Italy.

He then sent all his notes to his friend, the Roman politician and historian Cornelius Tacitus. However, his letters were not made public until the 16th century.

In his letters, Pliny writes that it was his mother who caught sight of the eruption first. Still, everyone was completely caught by surprise as it was the last thing on their mind that had a chance of happening.

Excavated Pompeian who was buried in the ash from eruption of Vesuvius volcano in 79 BC.

When describing the clouds, Pliny writes: “The cloud was rising from a mountain at such a distance we couldn’t tell which, but afterward learned that it was Vesuvius. I can best describe its shape by likening it to a pine tree. It rose into the sky on a very long “trunk” from which spread some “branches.” I imagine it had been raised by a sudden blast, which then weakened, leaving the cloud unsupported so that its own weight caused it to spread sideways. Some of the clouds was white, in other parts, there were dark patches of dirt and ash.”

Plaster casts of the victims covered in ash in Pompeii, Italy.

This city was long forgotten until 1748 when it was accidentally rediscovered. That happened while workers were building a palace for Charles of Bourbon. They thought that everything was completely destroyed from the eruption. To their surprise, they found the city full of objects, buildings, and skeletons that have taught us a lot about this frozen in time city.

According to researchers, it was the ash and molten debris that kept the bodies, houses, jewelry and art well preserved. If it weren’t for them, no sign of Pompeii would be seen after the devastating eruption.

A plaster cast of a man in his last moments. Pompeii, Italy.

Today, Pompeii is of great importance and a site that tells us a lot about the past. For this reason, it is also protected by UNESCO.

After the deadly eruption, Mount Vesuvius has erupted 30 more times and it is thought that it won’t stop. Now, there are around 600,000 residents living in that red zone area whose lives are being at risk. Let’s just hope that the next eruptions will be nowhere as close as from the year 79 AD.

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Written by Ketrin Ulbrich

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