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“A Buried Past”


The city of Pompeii was an ancient Roman town-city near modern Naples in the Italian region of Campania that was entirely destroyed and buried under 4 to 6 meters (13 to 20 ft.) of ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.


Researchers believe that Pompeii was founded in the 7th or 6th century BC by the Oscans, a people of central Italy. It came under Roman rule in the 4th century BC, and became a Roman colony in 80 BC after it joined an unsuccessful rebellion against the Roman Republic. By the time of its destruction 160 years later, its population was approximately 11,000 people, and featured a complex water system, amphitheater, gymnasium, and a port.


Evidence for the destruction originally came from a surviving letter by Pliny the Younger, who saw the eruption from a distance. The eruption occurred on August 24, just one day after Vulcanalia, the festival of the Roman god of fire. A multidisciplinary study of the eruption indicates that at Vesuvius and surrounding towns, heat was the main cause of death of people, previously believed to have died by ash suffocation. Exposure to at least 250 °C (482 °F) hot surges at a distance of 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the vent was sufficient to cause instant death, even if people were sheltered within buildings.


The site was lost for about 1,500 years until its initial rediscovery in 1599 and broader rediscovery by Spanish engineer Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre in 1748. The objects that lay beneath the city have been well-preserved for centuries because of the lack of air and moisture.

A tourist destination for over 250 years, Pompeii is now an UNESCO World Heritage Site status and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Italy, with approximately 2.5 million visitors every year.




  • Temple of Apollo - Built in the 2nd century BC, it was the city’s most important religious structure. A peripteros featuring 48 ionic columns, it was seated on a high podium with an imposing set of entrance steps, reflecting a fusion of Greek and Italic architectural ideas.


  • Amphitheatre of Pompeii – Believed to be the earliest Roman amphitheater constructed of stone, it remains in startlingly practical condition today. Praised for its acoustics and optimal design, it is still used today as a concert and public events venue.


  • Garden of the Fugitives - Giuseppe Fiorelli took charge of the Pompeii excavations in 1863. During early excavations of the site, occasional voids in the ash layer had been found that contained human remains. Fiorelli realized these were spaces left by the decomposed bodies and devised the technique of injecting plaster into them to recreate the forms of Vesuvius's victims. This technique is still in use today, with a clear resin now used instead of plaster because it is more durable, and does not destroy the bones, allowing further analysis. Today, many casts can also be found in the Archaeological Museum of Naples.


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