Desperate people sought refuge as the city was buried by volcanic mud and stone.
The morning of August 24, A.D. 79 in the prosperous Roman city of Pompeii was nothing out of the ordinary. But things quickly changed around noon, when Mount Vesuvius spewed a deadly cloud of “unusual size and appearance,” according to the eyewitness account of first-century Roman writer Pliny the Younger.
For the 12 hours that followed, volcanic ash and pumice stones showered Pompeii. Many people took refuge in cellars and stone structures but were killed the following morning when a cloud of suffocating toxic gas swept over the city, and a flood of volcanic mud and stone completely buried it. Thousands of people died during the eruption.
Archaeologists recently unearthed the skeletons of four people who were in the back of a shop on the outskirts of Pompeii when the disaster struck, along with several gold coins and a necklace pendant. The Associated Press reports that the skeletons are those of young people, including an adolescent girl.
The archaeologists think the individuals sought refuge in the shop where they eventually became trapped as the city was buried.
There was evidence that the shop had been ransacked by looters who were looking for treasure buried under the ashes after the eruption. They apparently missed the coins and the gold-leaf-foil pendant.
One of the gold coins found in the shop. Credit: Pompeii Sites
A large vertical furnace found in the shop was presumably used to make bronze objects.
The excavations, conducted by the École française de Rome, the Centre Jean Bérard, and the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), also turned up a second shop, but archaeologists are puzzled over what its purpose was. This shop features a circular well dug into the soil that was accessible by a spiral staircase.
Well discovered in the second shop. Credit: Pompeii Sites
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