Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Earlier Eruption Eclipses Destruction of Pompeii

The Italian city of Pompeii is one of the best-known reminders of how deadly volcanoes can be. Mt. Vesuvius' eruption in 79 A.D. buried the city, entombing many of the dead in casts of hardened ash that remain today. Now, scientists say the destruction was even worse in an earlier incident -- a deadly day 4,000 years ago.

A group of scientists digging northwest of Vesuvius near Naples has found evidence that an enormous eruption during the Bronze Age covered the land almost 15 miles away from the volcano in hot ash and dust. The findings appear in the latest edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

One village was practically petrified in ash, with utensils and pottery still intact. The scientists also found 4,000-year-old footprints of people and animals running away from the destruction.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit

Christopher Joyce is a correspondent on the science desk at NPR. His stories can be heard on all of NPR's news programs, including NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.