Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79, burying the cities of Pompeii, Oplontis, and Stabiae under ash and rock fragments, and the city of Herculaneum under a mudflow.
Mount Vesuvius, on the west coast of Italy, is the only active volcano in continental Europe and is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world.
Every resident was killed instantly when the southern Italian city was hit by a pyroclastic hot wave of 500°C.
Pyroclastic flows are a dense collection of hot gas and volcanic materials that flow down the side of an erupting volcano at high speed.
They are more dangerous than lava because they travel faster, traveling at speeds of about 700 km/h and at temperatures of 1000°C.
A governor and poet named Pliny the Younger watched the disaster unfold from a distance.
Letters describing what he saw were found in the 16th century.
His writings suggest that the eruption failed to notify the inhabitants of Pompeii.
Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79, burying the cities of Pompeii, Oplontis, and Stabiae under ash and rock fragments, and the city of Herculaneum under a mudflow
He said a column of smoke rose from the volcano “like umbrella pines,” making the cities around it as black as night.
People ran for their lives with torches, screaming and some howling as the rain of ash and pumice fell for several hours.
While the eruption lasted about 24 hours, the first pyroclastic waves started at midnight, causing the column of the volcano to collapse.
An avalanche of hot ash, rock and poisonous gas swept along the side of the volcano at 192 km/h (199 km/h), burying victims and remnants of everyday life.
Hundreds of refugees taking shelter in the arched coastal arcades in Herculaneum, clutching their jewelry and money, were killed instantly.
The Orto dei fuggiaschi (The Garden of the Fugitives) shows the 13 bodies of victims who were buried in the ashes when they tried to flee Pompeii during the eruption of the volcano Vesuvius in AD 79
As people fled Pompeii or hid in their homes, their bodies were covered by blankets from the wave action.
Although Pliny did not estimate how many people died, the event was said to be “exceptional” and the death toll would exceed 10,000.
What did they find?
This event ended the life of the cities, but at the same time preserved them until their rediscovery by archaeologists almost 1700 years later.
The excavation of Pompeii, the industrial center of the region, and Herculaneum, a small seaside town, have provided an unparalleled insight into Roman life.
Archaeologists are constantly discovering more of the ash-covered city.
In May, archaeologists uncovered an alley of stately homes, with balconies largely intact and still in their original hues.
A plaster cast of a dog, from the house of Orpheus, Pompeii, AD 79. About 30,000 people are believed to have died in the chaos, and bodies are still being discovered to this day
Some balconies even had amphorae—the cone-shaped terracotta vases used in ancient Roman times to hold wine and oil.
The discovery has been hailed as a ‘complete novelty’ – and the Italian Ministry of Culture hopes they can be restored and opened to the public.
Upper shops are rarely found among the ruins of the ancient city, which was destroyed by an eruption of the Vesuvius volcano and buried under up to six meters of ash and volcanic debris.
It is estimated that about 30,000 people died in the chaos, and bodies are still being discovered to this day.