Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/2122/5394
AuthorsDi Vito, M. A.* 
Zanella, E.* 
Gurioli, L.* 
Lanza, L.* 
Sulpizio, R.* 
Bishop, J.* 
Tema, E.* 
Boenzi, G.* 
Laforgia, E.* 
TitleThe Afragola settlement near Vesuvius, Italy: The destruction and abandonment of a Bronze Age village revealed by archaeology, volcanology and rock-magnetism
Issue Date2009
Series/Report no./277(2009)
DOI10.1016/j.epsl.2008.11.006
URIhttp://hdl.handle.net/2122/5394
Keywordspyroclastic density current
Bronze Age
magnetic fabric
deposition temperature
Subject Classification04. Solid Earth::04.04. Geology::04.04.10. Stratigraphy 
04. Solid Earth::04.05. Geomagnetism::04.05.07. Rock magnetism 
04. Solid Earth::04.08. Volcanology::04.08.05. Volcanic rocks 
AbstractPublic works in progress in the Campanian plain north of Somma-Vesuvius recently encountered the remains of a prehistoric settlement close to the town of Afragola. Rescue excavations brought to light a Bronze Age village partially destroyed and buried by pyroclastic density currents (PDCs) of the Vesuvian Pomici di Avellino eruption (3.8 14C ka BP) and subsequently sealed by alluvial deposits. Volcanological and rockmagnetic investigations supplemented the excavations. Careful comparison between volcanological and archaeological stratigraphies led to an understanding of the timing of the damage the buildings suffered when they were struck by a series of PDCs. The first engulfed the village, located some 14 km to the north of the inferred vent, and penetrated into the dwellings without causing major damage. The buildings were able to withstand the weak dynamic pressure of the currents and deviate their path, as shown by the magnetic fabric analyses. Some later collapsed under the load of the deposits piled up by successive currents. Stepwise demagnetization of the thermal remanent magnetization (TRM) carried by potsherds embedded in the deposits yields deposition temperatures in the order of 260– 320 °C, fully consistent with those derived from pottery and lithic fragments from other distal and proximal sites. The fairly uniform temperature of the deposits is here ascribed to the lack of pervasive air entrainment into the currents. This, in turn, resulted from the lack of major topographical obstacles along the flat plain. The coupling of structural damage and sedimentological analyses indicates that the currents were not destructive in the Afragola area, but TRM data indicate they were still hot enough to cause death or severe injury to humans and animals. The successful escape of the entire population is apparent from the lack of human remains and from thousands of human footprints on the surface of the deposits left by the first PDCs. People were thus able to walk barefoot across the already emplaced deposits and escape the subsequent PDCs. The rapid cooling of the deposits was probably due to both their thinness and heat dissipation due to condensation of water vapour released in the mixture by magma–water interaction.
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