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Escape from Pompeii

Almost 2,000 years ago, a volcano buried the city of Pompeii. Experts are still digging up clues about the doomed city.

As You Read: Name one item found in Pompeii. What does it tell us about the ancient city?

Imagine it’s the year 79. You’re walking in the city of Pompeii (pahm-PAY), in what is now Italy. Suddenly, you hear an explosion! A giant cloud of ash shoots from a nearby volcano. The ash heads your way—can you escape?

This scary scene describes the eruption of Mount Vesuvius (veh-SOO-vee-uhs) almost 2,000 years ago. When this volcano blew its top, ash, rock, and deadly gases rained down on Pompeii. Most people escaped, but about 2,000 people were killed. The city was soon covered by up to 20 feet of rock and ash.

As the ash cooled, it hardened. It formed a shell over Pompeii and preserved much of the city. Before long, Pompeii was forgotten.

Fast-forward to 1748. In that year, Pompeii was rediscovered. Archaeologists began unearthing buildings and other items. This work continues today— and it’s providing amazing new clues about Pompeii and its people.

Imagine it’s the year 79. You’re walking in the city of Pompeii (pahm-PAY), in what is now Italy. Suddenly, you hear an explosion! A giant cloud of ash shoots from a nearby volcano. The ash heads your way. Can you escape? 

This scary scene describes the eruption of Mount Vesuvius (veh-SOO-vee-uhs) long ago. When this volcano blew its top, ash, rock, and deadly gases rained down on Pompeii. Most people escaped, but about 2,000 people were killed. The city was covered by up to 20 feet of rock and ash.

As the ash cooled, it hardened. It formed a shell over Pompeii and preserved much of the city. Before long, Pompeii was forgotten.

Fast-forward to 1748. In that year, Pompeii was rediscovered. Archaeologists began unearthing buildings and other items. This work continues today. It’s providing amazing new clues about Pompeii.   

Just Like Us

Over time, archaeologists have uncovered hundreds of Pompeii’s buildings, like homes, shops, and theaters where plays were performed. Many of these buildings are now open to visitors.

One recent find was an ancient fast-food shop called a thermopolium. Before the volcano erupted, it sold snacks like cheese and fish.

“Today we often go out for food,” says archaeologist Steven Ellis. “People of Pompeii did too!”

Experts have uncovered hundreds of Pompeii’s buildings. They include homes, shops, and theaters where plays were performed. Many of these buildings are now open to visitors.

One recent find was an ancient fast-food shop called a thermopolium. It once sold snacks like cheese and fish.

“Today we often go out for food,” says archaeologist Steven Ellis. “People of Pompeii did too!”

On the Walls

Other new discoveries have been made on walls. Experts recently found a fresco—a type of painting—of a gladiator scene. Gladiators were fighters who battled with swords and other weapons. Watching them fight was popular in Pompeii.

On other walls, experts found notes that people wrote. These notes include greetings to friends and advertisements for people running in elections. Some experts compare them to today’s social media posts.

Will even more secrets escape from the buried city? Archaeologists still have some exploring to do. But they plan to leave about one-third of Pompeii buried. That way, people can someday study it with better tools.

Ellis says, “It’s important to preserve Pompeii for the future.”

Other new discoveries have been made on walls. Experts recently found a painting of gladiators. Gladiators were fighters who battled with swords and other weapons. Watching them fight was popular in Pompeii.

On other walls, experts found notes that people wrote. Some are greetings to friends. Others are advertisements for people running in elections. Some experts compare them to today’s social media posts.

Will even more secrets escape from the city? Archaeologists still have some exploring to do. But they plan to leave about one-third of Pompeii buried. That way, people can someday study it with better tools.

Ellis says, “It’s important to preserve Pompeii for the future.”

  1. Summarize what happened when Mount Vesuvius erupted.
  2. What is one way the people of Pompeii were similar to people today?
  3. How does Steven Ellis feel about preserving Pompeii? Do you agree with him? Why or why not?
  1. Summarize what happened when Mount Vesuvius erupted.
  2. What is one way the people of Pompeii were similar to people today?
  3. How does Steven Ellis feel about preserving Pompeii? Do you agree with him? Why or why not?

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