The City of Ash

It’s the lost city (no, not Atlantis, the other one), the city buried under a thick layer of volcanic ash that lay there for almost 1700 years without being discovered. Welcome to Pompeii.

In 79 AD the neighboring volcano, Mount Vesuvius, erupted killing over two thousand people and burying the city 16 feet deep in a layer of ash. At first the volcano ejected a cloud of debris into the sky, 12 miles high. Following this a searing combination of ash and pumice rolled down the volcano at 70 miles an hour destroying everything in its path. The eruption lasted 24 hours. And the impact of it lasted thousands of years. Until it was re-discovered…

The city wasn’t found again until 1748, when a group of explorers searching for ancient artifacts began to dig. All the ash surrounding it meant the city was almost entirely preserved. Even loaves of bread were found intact sitting in the bakery as if they were freshly prepared.


What’s perhaps most disturbing is the shells of people that were found sprawled across the city. Some crouched in fear shielding their eyes, others were screaming for help. So how did they preserve them?

In order to preserve the bodies, the excavators pored plaster into the hollow pockets in the ash where the human’s flesh had decayed. They then left the plaster to harden for a few days before chipping away the outer layers of hardened ash. The result was a plaster cast of a citizen of Pompeii at the time of death.

The city itself used the roads as a sewage system, raised stones allowed citizens to cross without getting dirty. Hundreds of phallic symbols are dotted around the city making an amusing experience in combination with the various brothels that surround it.

Mount Vesuvius, which caused the disaster, is an active volcano and has erupted a further 30 times since 79 AD, but of a much smaller magnitude. However, experts fear it is due another catastrophic eruption. Not only that, but nearly 600,000 people live in the danger zone meaning Italy needs to devise a disaster relief plan, soon.

Want to know where to head after Pompeii? Check out The Italian Lakes


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