Buried under meters of ash and pumice, Pompeii was frozen in time. The city in the Campania region of southern Italy remained as it was in 79 BC. J.-C., at the time of the eruption of Vesuvius responsible for its disappearance – and its incredible conservation. Researchers continue to discover clues to how life was organized there. Thousands of tourists flock to the archaeological site each year to get an idea of what a prosperous and sophisticated Roman city looked like centuries ago.
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But Pompeii is not the only one to have remained intact after such an event. In any case, this is what researchers from the University of Connecticut (USA) reveal in a study by Journal of Archaeological Science, published this September 29, 2022: the village of Afragola, next to present-day Naples and about sixteen kilometers from Mount Vesuvius, was also enclosed under meters of centers, mud and sediments about 4,000 years ago. Many plant remains have been preserved there, allowing scientists to identify when the eruption may have occurred… and even at what time of year!
Cinerite, a time machine
A total of 5,000 square meters of the ancient village of Afragola have been meticulously excavated. The experts were thus able to retrace the course of the eruption. First, a huge explosion from Vesuvius would have sent debris northeast of Mt. The inhabitants of Afragola further west would thus have had time to flee, leaving behind them several footprints of adults and children – and which explains why, unlike Pompeii, no trace of human remains has been found. found. Then the direction of the wind would have changed, depositing an abundant quantity of ashes on the deserted hamlet.
Then the phreatomagmatic flows, a mixture of volcanic material, water and mud, dispersed up to about twenty-five kilometers from the volcano, completely burying the village. This is what has allowed the latter to resist degradation, even after several millennia. “The thick layer of volcanic material replaced the molecules of the plant macro-remains and produced perfect casts in a material called cinerite”says Tiziana Matarazzo, a researcher in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Connecticut in a communicated.
This eruption was so extraordinary that it changed the climate for many years afterwards. The Plinian eruption column rose to aircraft flight altitude. It was amazing.
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A bronze age autumn day
The frozen village offers a rare glimpse of how people lived in Italy during the Bronze Age. The inhabitants of Afragola surely lived in huts, in groups. The collapse of the storage building at the time even made possible the indirect carbonization of the vegetable matter stored there. So much so that archaeologists have been able to identify cereals such as barley, hazelnuts, acorns, wild apples, dogwood fruits and agricultural equipment extraordinarily well preserved there – and probably shared with the community.
In addition to these fruits, numerous leaf imprints have been preserved in the cinerite. So much evidence that allowed scientists to assume that the eruption took place in autumn, “which is generally impossible” to do, according to Tiziana Matarazzo. This portrait of the local habitat of 4,000 years ago also reveals to us that between climate change and development of the region, Campania today is very different from what it once was. It is also still threatened by the shadow of Vesuvius, which could wake up again.
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Two thousand years before Pompeii, Vesuvius had buried another city that archaeologists are studying
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