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Vesuvius Erupts!

The year is 79AD and the 12,000 citizens of Pompeii are going about their daily lives: haggling at the market, enjoying shows in the amphitheatre and watching the ships come and go at the bustling port. It may have been nearly 2000 years ago but Pompeii was a thoroughly modern city for its time.

This photo shows one of Pompeii's 100 streets. The raised stones were like our crossings - people could walk over them without getting their feet wet from rainwater and horses and carts could steer between them - genius!

Mount Vesuvius had always towered over Pompeii, having been there long before the ancient city was built. It's an impressive 1,280 meters high and grows each time it erupts, as the lava cools and forms a new outer shell of the volcano. For thousands of years, Mount Vesuvius was dormant (this means it didn't erupt). It was seen as a beautiful geographical feature that the people of Pompeii even called 'the protector' - they had no idea it was a volcano! That's despite the local soil being very fertile from eruptions hundreds of years before - a telltale sign that there is a volcano nearby.

Little did they know 'the protector' would change their lives forever...

The eruption happened very quickly - the ground trembled and the sky was soon covered in thick ash, making it tricky for people to see what was happening. Temperatures in the ancient city reached 250 degrees celsius - that's hotter than most ovens. Only a luck few were able to escape; the majority of the people in Pompeii had no such luck and were killed almost instantly.

Fun fact - Vesuvius erupted just 1 day after the Romans celebrated the religious festival for the God of fire, Vulcan, It's an amazing coincidence, don't you think?

The lava and ash from the volcano buried the city 5 metres deep and for over 1500 years Pompeii was hidden underground - a city lost in time. It was first discovered in 1748 and fulled revealed in 1997. Today, tourists from all over the world travel to southern Italy to see the uncovered city and the spooky casts that were made of the people who lost their lives.

As people were covered in hot ash, their bodies were preserved (kept). Over time, they decomposed but a perfect mould of their body was left. Archaeologists filled the gaps with plaster to see what the people looked like.

Here is one of the plaster casts. It's sad to imagine this person's last moments as they cowered in the heat.

How do you think they felt?

Do you think they were alone or with others? What do you predict the object is by their foot?

Virtual Visit - Escape from Pompeii

If you're learning about the Vesuvius eruption of 79AD, book in a call with Pompeii citizen Amelius. She's one of the lucky few who escaped and is ready to share her story with your class.

Listen as she tells you: • What life was like in her bustling city of Pompeii. From the modern streets and shops to the exciting theatres, Pompeii was a city like no other! • Details of the fateful day in 79AD when the ground began to rumble and Vesuvius erupted, leaving her to flee and become separated from her loved ones • How she is still haunted by what happened despite having a new life. What ever did happen to the people she lost? Will her city ever recover?

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