Pompeii is an archaeological wonder, an entire Roman town preserved by a volcanic eruption. Now archaeologists are investigating two other “Pompeiis” to learn more about the past.
In El Salvador, a team has discovered a village dating to c. 630 AD that was covered in volcanic ash. Joya de Ceren was sealed up so well that archaeologists have been able to examine corn cobs, the logs used to build homes, and even the paths leading through the village and how crops were planted.
Archaeology is generally biased towards big sites, both because they’re easier to find and because it’s easier to get funding to excavate them. Finding a small village that was inhabited by only 100-200 commoners helps us understand how the other half lived. The village has been declared a World Heritage Site.
At the Roman city of Nikopolis ad Istrum in Bulgaria, an archaeological team is working on another “Pompeii”. This Roman city was never buried in a volcanic eruption but it’s so well preserved, scientists make the comparison anyway. An archaeological team is exploring a temple to Cybele, a mother goddess.
I’ve been to Nikopolis ad Istrum and was very impressed. The city was founded by the Emperor Trajan around 101-106 AD. It was a major center of trade and culture until Attila the Hun trashed it in 447 AD. So it goes. Attila wasn’t very thorough and the town soon flourished again under the Byzantines. Today you can walk the streets, see the foundations of many buildings and even spot some of their decoration. You can even trace the sewers, which are a lot less stinky than they used to be.
[Photo courtesy Klearchos Kapoutsis]