The head of the Pompeii site suggested the correct date might have been October 24. (ANSA via AP: Ciro Fusco)
The volcanic eruption that destroyed the ancient Roman city of Pompeii probably took place two months later than previously thought, Italian officials say.
- Historians traditionally date the disaster to August 24, 79 AD
- However the new inscription found in a home is dated October 17
- A variety of evidence has emerged over the years pointing to a later date
Historians have traditionally dated the disaster to August 24 79 AD, but excavations on the vast site in southern Italy have unearthed a charcoal inscription written on a wall that includes a date which corresponds to October 17.
The writing came from an area in a house that was apparently being renovated just before the nearby Mount Vesuvius erupted, burying Pompeii under a thick blanket of ash and rock.
“Being charcoal, fragile and evanescent, which could not last a long time, it is more than likely that it was written in October 79 AD,” said Massimo Osanna, head of the Pompeii site.
Showing off the faint writing on an uncovered white wall, Culture Minister Alberto Bonisoli hailed it as an “extraordinary discovery”.
“Today, with a lot of humility, maybe we’re rewriting the history books,” Mr Bonisoli said of the potential date change.
Pompeii was destroyed after a volcanic eruption in 79 AD, but the exact month is in dispute. (Reuters: Alessandro Bianchi)
The August 24 date derives from an account of the blast given by Pliny the Younger, who witnessed the eruption and wrote about it almost 30 years after the event in two letters to his friend, the Roman historian Tacitus.
However, previous excavations have uncovered a calcified branch bearing berries that normally only come out in the Italian autumn.
The discovery of some braziers over the years also suggested the disaster did not strike at the height of summer.
Mr Osanna suggested the correct date might have been October 24.