This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise, This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands,-- This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England. ~~William Shakespeare, Richard III

Monday, August 24, 2009

This Day in History...

August 24, 79 - Mount Vesuvius in the Bay of Naples erupts, burying the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum killing thousands. The cities, buried under a thick layer of volcanic material and mud, were pretty much forgotten. In the 1700s, they were rediscovered and excavated, providing an unprecedented record of the everyday life of an ancient civilization.

At noon, the mountain exploded sending a 10-mile mushroom cloud of ash and pumice into the stratosphere. For the next 12 hours, ash and pumice stones showered Pompeii and some of the residents decided to flee. About 2,000 people stayed, holed up in cellars or stone structures, hoping to wait out the eruption. Everyone who remained were killed the next morning when a cloud of toxic gas poured into the city and suffocated those in hiding. A flow of rock and ash followed, collapsing buildings and burying the dead.

Wind protected Herculaneum from the initial eruption, but then a giant cloud of hot ash and gas raced down the western flank of Vesuvius (pyroclastic flow most likely), filling the city and burning or asphyxiating all who remained. This was followed by a flood of volcanic mud and rock which buried the city.

Pompeii was buried under 14 to 17 feet of ash and pumice. Herculaneum was buried under more than 60 feet of mud and volcanic material.

The remains of 2,000 were found at Pompeii. After they died their bodies were covered with ash that hardened and preserved the outline of their bodies. As the bodies decomposed they left a kind of mold behind in the shape of the bodies that had once laid there. Archaeologists who found these molds filled them with plaster, revealing the death pose of the victims. The whole city is frozen in time. The first human remains weren't found until 1982 and were found at Herculaneum. These skeletons found in a cave near the coast bear horrible burn marks that are evidence of a horrible death.

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