Scientists reconstruct Pompeii familys final hours

December 12th, 2008 - 4:27 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Dec 12 (ANI): A group of Italian researchers have reconstructed the last hours in Pompeii of a dozen people of a household who managed to survive Mount Vesuvius devastating eruption for more than 19 hours.

According to a report in Discovery News, volcanologist Claudio Scarpati, and colleagues Giuseppe Luongo and Annamaria Perrotta of the University of Naples Federico II in Italy, analyzed layers of volcanic deposits in a Pompeian house and examined 13 skeletons found there on a carpet of pumice, to reconstruct the events that occurred when the eruption was in progress.
Located in Pompeiis main street, Via dellAbbondanza, the home of Iulius Polybius, is one of the most studied in the ancient Roman town.

This house has yielded rich and diverse archaeological findings. Moreover, it features the most complete stratified sections of Pompeii’’s volcanic deposit, Scarpati told Discovery News.

At around 1:00 p.m. on August 24, 79 A.D., Pompeii residents saw a pine tree-shaped column of smoke bursting from Vesuvius.

Reaching nine miles into the sky, the column began spewing a thick pumice rain. Many residents rushed in the streets, trying to leave the city.

At that moment, Polybius house was inhabited by 12 people, including a young woman in advanced pregnancy. They decided to remain in the house, most likely because it was safer for the pregnant woman. Given the circumstances, it was the right strategy, Scarpati said.

Most likely, the group of people in Polybius house included the parents, their children, a cousin and his young, pregnant wife, plus a pair of servants.

There were three adult males, three adult females of various ages, four boys, one girl, one child and one fetus in the last month of intrauterine life. The fetus was associated with the skeleton of a young (16 to 18-year-old) female, Scarpati said.

They all witnessed the terrible evolution of the eruption.

By examining the density of volcanic deposits in relation to an accumulation rate of six inches per hour, the researchers concluded that it took up to six hours for the roofs of Polybius house to collapse.

At around 7:00 p.m., by which time the front part the house had collapsed, the inhabitants took shelter in the rear rooms, whose steeper roofs had not been damaged by the falling material.

According to Scarpati, the first pyroclastic currents arrived from the north and overtopped the rear part of the house.

The currents moved into the garden and advanced toward the front of the house. No escape was possible for the people there. The ash reached every corner in the house and suffocated its inhabitants, he said. (ANI)

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