ROME (Reuters) – The volcanic eruption that destroyed the ancient Roman city of Pompeii was probably two months later than previously thought, Italian officials said Tuesday.
FILE PHOTO: Tourists look down on October 13, 2015 an ancient Roman cobblestone street on the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Pompeii. REUTERS / Alessandro Bianchi / archival photo
Historians have traditionally dated the disaster to 24 August 79 AD, but excavations on the vast tract of land in southern Italy have found a charcoal inscription on a wall containing a date that October 1
The writing comes from an area in a house that was being renovated just before the remodeling near Vesuvius broke out and buried Pompeii under a thick blanket of ash and rock.
"As coal, fragile and fleeting, which could not last long, it is more than likely that it was written in October 79 AD," said Massimo Osanna, head of the Pompeii site.
The date Aug. 24 comes from an account of the explosion of Pliny the Younger, who witnessed the eruption and wrote about it almost two decades later in two letters to his friend, the Roman historian Tacitus.
Earlier excavations have found a calcified branch that bears berries, which usually appear only in the fall. The discovery of some braziers over the years also indicated that the disaster did not occur at the height of summer.
Osanna suggested the correct date might have been October 24th.
Minister of Culture Alberto Bonisoli affirmed the faint writing on an exposed white wall as an "extraordinary discovery".
"Today, with much humility, we may rewrite the history books as we go into the second half of October with the eruption," said Bonisoli.
Reporting by Giulia Segreti; Edited by Crispian Balmer and David Stamp