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Published: 16th April 2005 19:48 BST+1

Pompei discovery for Swedish archeologists

(AFP) Swedish archeologists have discovered a Stone Age settlement covered in ash under the ruins of the ancient city of Pompei, indicating that the volcano Vesuvius engulfed the area in lava more than 3,500 years before the famous 79 AD eruption.

The archeologists recently found burnt wood and grains of emmer wheat in the earth under Pompei, Anne-Marie Leander Touati, a professor of archeology at Stockholm University who led the team, told AFP.

"Carbon dating shows that the finds are from prehistoric times, that is, from 3,500 years BC," Leander Touati said. It was until now believed that Pompei was first inhabited during the Bronze Age.

The group of archeologists - part of a larger international project - were mapping a Roman neighbourhood of Pompei when they made the discovery.

"It was a real fluke," Leander Touati said, explaining that the group was emptying a well to determine its use when it made the find.

"We realized that the well was a lot deeper than we thought, and we sent a guy down into the well. He moved some of the earth and suddenly he was in prehistoric times," she said.

The Stone Age remains were covered in a thick layer of ash. On top of that a a layer of ceramic shards was found, which according to Leander Touati could be from the Bronze Age. Additional geological layers lay on top of that, and on top of it all were the ruins of Pompei.

Pompei was covered in lava when Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. The excellently preserved ruins have become one of the world's most visited archaeological sites.

Leander Touati said her group was now planning the next step.

"We're going down there again," she said.

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Comment

Phil Whitley | 17th April 2005 | 20.51 | Report Comment
IThe reference to corn grains being found at this date is of particular interest to me. (3500 B.C.)

My studies into the development of maize/corn all lead to it having been developed from a large grass (teosinte) in MesoAmerica by the Aztec around the same date, and only reached both coasts of Mexico by 1600 BC.

If the Pompei find is truly corn, this would indicate trade via sea travel at a much earlier date than previously known!

I would like to hear more on this anomaly. Great article!

Phil

Fredrik Jonsson | 18th April 2005 | 03.40 | Report Comment
I think they are using corn in the more general sense, referring to some type of cereal. I, too, would be very surprised if they had actually found maize beneath Pompei.

The Local | 18th April 2005 | 16.30 | Report Comment
Please note the clarification in this article. The grains found were not corn as previously reported, but emmer wheat.

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