Pompeii's most recent finds reveal new clues to city's destruction

Frescoes and fast-food joints are just a few of the latest discoveries, but a small piece of graffiti is making scholars rethink the date of Pompeii's ruin.

A worker removes volcanic fragments (lapilli) from the atrium of the House of Orion in Pompeii’s Region V. The decoration being uncovered is characteristic of the so-called First style (200-80 B.C.).
Cesare Abbate/EPA/EFE

Since its discovery several centuries ago, few archaeological sites have fascinated the world as has the ancient Roman city of Pompeii. After the first major excavations in more than 50 years, Pompeii is revealing a surprising abundance of buried treasures. The new finds are coming from intensive work in a small sector known as Region V that has nevertheless yielded giant insights into the final days of the doomed city.

Along with the complete excavation of two houses—the House of the Garden and the House of Orion—the dig has yielded frescoes, murals, and mosaics of mythological figures in gorgeous colors, skeletons with stories still to be unraveled, coins, amulets, and show horses in the stable of a wealthy landowner.

The new finds are also sparking debate about Pompeii’s tragic story. Just before Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79 and buried the city under a mantle of ash and rock, a local worker scrawled an inscription on a wall. Along with a joke (roughly translated as “he ate too much”), he wrote the date: October 17. The discovery of this inscription may confirm the view that the eruption took place in October, and not August, as some scholars maintain. (Could Vesuvius's next eruption be even larger?)

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