Charcoal inscription points to date change for Pompeii eruption

Sergio Conner
October 18, 2018

A newly-discovered inscription at Pompeii proves the city was destroyed by Mount Vesuvius after October 17, 79 AD and not on August 24 as previously thought, archeologists said yesterday.

Written in charcoal on the walls of a house, it reads: "XVI K NOV", which experts believe translates to 16 (in Roman numerals), calends (the Roman term for the first day of the month, represented by K), and November.

"Being charcoal, fragile and evanescent, which could not last a long time, it is more than likely that it was written in October 79 AD", said Massimo Osanna, head of the Pompeii site. It reads "the 16th day before the calends of November", meaning October 17, nearly two months after August 24.

Archeologists found the inscription in a house that was in the process of being renovated at the time of the eruption, so the writing would have probably been covered with plaster shortly. Historians widely accepted this date due to an eyewitness account about the eruption discussed in a letter from Pliny the Younger to a friend, Tacitus, several years after the event.

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Archeologists have found writings proving that the famous 79 AD eruption happened two months later than what the scientific community now believes.

Foods in the harvests of Pompeii and autumnal fruits on branches found in the ashen ruins had prompted speculation of a much later data than August since the 19th century, Mr Osanna said.

"It is an extraordinary discovery", Culture Minister Alberto Bonisoli.

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