18 Apr 2005
Stone-age Pompeii uncovered
Swedish archeologists have found previously unknown prehistoric settlements under ancient Pompeii.
The Swedish Pompeii Project, tied to Stockholm University and the Swedish Institute in Rome, has worked for five seasons in a section of Pompeii to study and document the relics of the ancient city. When a well was emptied of its contents of pumice stone from the eruption of Vesuvius in A.D. 79, a spectacular discovery was made: about two meters below the ancient floor level the wall of the well revealed a prehistoric layer. The lowest and oldest layer has been carbon-dated to about 3500 BC - the Stone Age.  It is covered by a layer of ash, which probably testifies to an earlier volcanic eruption. On top of this there are remains from the Bronze Age. The rich earth is full of pottery shards.  In other words, this is a settlement layer. A Stone Age settlement was thus buried by a volcanic eruption from Vesuvius, just as was ancient Pompeii. The place was resettled during the Bonze Age.

"The plan is now to continue the study to find out how extensive the prehistoric settlement was," says Professor Anne-Marie Leander Touati, who is leading the project. The work requires drastic measures, since the ancient street pavement must be removed to make it possible to excavate a wider area than the narrow space around the well allows.

"The archeological authorities in Pompeii are excited about the find and have great expectations for the continuing field word," says Anne-Marie Leander Touati.