Substantial NWO grant for research into the cultural and demographic effects of the giant Bronze Age eruption of Mount Vesuvius

Around 1995 BC, during the Early Bronze Age, a giant eruption of Mount Vesuvius buried a flourishing landscape of villages and fields in the plains to the north and east of the volcano under more than a meter of ash.

Inhabitants of Campanian sites such as Nola (‘the Bronze Age Pompeii’) barely escaped with their lives. Italian archaeological research since the 1980s has already shown that the population of the Campanian plain did not fully recover for several centuries after this so-called ‘Avellino Event’, but no one has yet wondered where the substantial Early Bronze Age population of Campania could have sought refuge, or what impacts it would have had there.

Household items left behind in the Bronze Age village of Nola after the inhabitants fled the Avellino eruption. Hut walls, molded in hardened volcanic ash, have been preserved to a height of about 1m.

Household items left behind in the Bronze Age village of Nola after the inhabitants fled the Avellino eruption. Hut walls, molded in hardened volcanic ash, have been preserved to a height of about 1m.

Researchers dr. Martijn van Leusen and Prof. Peter Attema of the Groningen Institute of Archaeology and dr. Michael Field of the Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University receive € 750.000 to carry out an interdisciplinary research into the cultural and demographic effects of the disastrous event. Prof. Corrie Bakels will also be involved in the project.

Their hypothesis is that given the topography of central-southern Italy, the most likely refuge area will have been to the north, in the coastal zone of what is now South Lazio. Here, two wetland coastal plains – the Fondi basin and the Agro Pontino - could have provided the space and resources to absorb the fleeing population. The research team consisting of three postdoctoral researchers (one of which will be Marieke Doorenbosch. She will undertake palynological investigations of the sediments in Leiden) and two assistants, will be hosted at the Groningen Institute of Archaeology and the Archaeobotany department of the Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University.

People fleeing with their cattle from a recent eruption of Mt. Sinabong (Indonesia).

People fleeing with their cattle from a recent eruption of Mt. Sinabong (Indonesia).

Last Modified: 26-01-2015