Digging Up Pliny’s Pompeii
Posted: March 1, 2021
The people of Pompeii built a busy city right next door to a volcano.
When Vesuvius erupted, ash fell from the sky. Pompeii got coated in pumice stone and ash—and not just a little bit. The city was buried under about 20 feet of volcanic debris!
This was certainly a tragedy for the people of Pompeii. As a boy, a writer named Pliny watched from across the bay as Vesuvius blew. When he grew up, he wrote about the catastrophe. “Darkness fell,” he wrote. “Not the dark of a moonless or cloudy night, but as if the lamp had been put out in a dark room.”
History went on. People knew from Pliny’s writings that the disaster had happened. But they no longer remembered where the ancient city was located. Only in the 1700s did people begin to dig out Pompeii. And what a surprise they got! The city lay underground exactly as it had existed in A.D. 79.
When a lot of ash falls quickly in one place, it buries everything as-is. It doesn’t move the objects it falls on. It doesn’t crush them or even burn them. So ash didn’t just destroy Pompeii. In a strange way, it also preserved it. Archaeologists noticed strange gaps in the debris. They filled these gaps with plaster. Then they drew out the plasters in the exact shapes of the human bodies destroyed in the calamity. Only ash can keep history intact like this.
People have been digging in Pompeii for hundreds of years now. They’re far from finished. With each new discovery, they learn a little more about life in ancient Rome. But they’re also undoing the ash’s work. Once dug up, Pompeii’s ruins are no longer protected. So archaeologists much diligently record every single find.
Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations. — Deuteronomy 32:7