Earthquake, landslide and volcanic damage

An important current field of research concerns structures that were being restored at the time of the eruption (presumably damaged during the earthquake of 62). Some of the older, damaged, paintings could have been covered with newer ones, and modern instruments are being used to catch a glimpse of the long hidden frescoes. The probable reason why these structures were still being repaired 10 years after the earthquake was the increasing frequency of smaller quakes that led up to the eruption.

Most of the archeological digs at the site only extend down to the street level of the 79 volcanic event. Deeper digs in older part of Pompeii and core samples of nearby drillings have exposed layers of jumbled sediment that suggest that other events hit the city before the famed volcano.

Three sheets of sediment have been found atop the lava bedrock that lies below the city. Mixed in with the sediment, archeologists have found bits of animal bone, pottery shards and bits of plants. Using carbon dating, the oldest layer has been placed as 8th century BCE, about the time that the city was founded. The other two layers are separated from the other layers by well developed soil layers or Roman pavement and were laid down in 4th century BCE and 2nd century BCE. The theory behind the layers of jumbled sediment is large landslides, perhaps triggered by extended rainfall. (Senatore, et al., 2004)

During early excavations of the site, occasional voids in the ash layer were found that contained human remains. Someone had the idea of filling the empty spaces with plaster. What resulted were highly accurate and eerie forms of the doomed Pompeiani who failed to escape, in their last moment of life (see,, For some of them the expression of terror is quite clearly visible.