Avellino eruption

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Avellino Eruption
Thousands of footprints in the pyroclastic surge deposits of the Avellino eruption testify to an en masse exodus from the disaster zone.
VolcanoMount Vesuvius
Date1995±10 BC
LocationNaples, Campania, Italy
40°49′N 14°26′E / 40.817°N 14.433°E / 40.817; 14.433Coordinates: 40°49′N 14°26′E / 40.817°N 14.433°E / 40.817; 14.433
ImpactDevastated and preserved Italian Bronze Age settlements within and throughout the area.
Hut at the site of the village

The Avellino eruption of Mount Vesuvius refers to a Vesuvian eruption in c. 1995 BC.[1] It is estimated to have had a VEI of 6, making it larger and more catastrophic than Vesuvius's more famous and well-documented 79 AD eruption. It is the source of the Avellino pumice (Italian: Pomici di Avellino) deposits extensively found in the comune of Avellino in Campania.

Characteristics of the eruption[edit]

"Assessment of volcanological factors" in one scientific study reconstruct a minimum eruption time of 3 hours in which an initial explosion raised a column of 23 km (75,000 ft) and deposited about 0.32 km3 of white pumice ("the white pumice phase"), while a second, more intense explosion raised a column of 31 km (102,000 ft) depositing 1.25 km3 of grey pumice ("the grey pumice phase"). These pumices appearing in Apulian pottery can be used to establish relative chronology of pottery phases.[2]

A 2008 study of the lithofacies (deposits from the eruption) distinguishes three phases. Pyroclastic flows (PDC's) of Phases 1 and 2 were generated by "magmatic fragmentation" and had "small dispersal areas" mainly on the slopes of Vesuvius. Phase 3 was created by "phreatomagmatic fragmentation," in which clastic fragments are driven by superheated steam from ground water mixed with the other gases released from the magma. The authors characterize Phase 3 as "the most voluminous and widespread in the whole of Somma-Vesuvius's eruptive history." Some facies a few cm thick were found 25 km (16 mi) from the source.[3] The vent was 2 km (1.2 mi) west of today's center.

The overall results of the Avellino eruption were catastrophic and widespread. The deposit thickness of ash and other eruptive material ranges from 15m close to the vent to 50 cm around Avellino, and creating a subaquaeous debris-flow in the bay of Naples.[4]

Date of the eruption[edit]

The date of the Avellino eruption remains to be determined with a precision greater than about 500 years within the framework of the Early/Middle Bronze Age. A range of 2000–1500 BC includes the great majority of estimates. Ample opportunity to obtain Carbon-14 dates from charcoal and soil buried under the deposits has existed and still exists. Sporadic radiocarbon dating continues, with each scientist claiming to have obtained "the latest". Consistency with previous and subsequent work remains elusive. Since a real and very precise calendar date of the eruption must have existed, variation in estimations can only be the result of limitations to the carbon-dating method, which, given a plenitude of reliably emplaced samples, can only produce a date within a window of roughly 500 years in a maximum elapsed time of roughly 4000 years or 18 (12.5%).

According to Giardino, the problem of establishing a reliable date results from the differences of calibration - organic samples (such as charcoal: 1880–1680BC) versus soil facies (1684–1535 BC). He prefers the earlier as the more reliable date. The Avellino Eruption separates archaeologically the Early Bronze Age in Campania from the Middle Bronze Age[5]

A study published in 1990 by Vogel and others suggested that the Avellino eruption partly caused the climatic disturbances of the 1620s BC, dates verified by tree-ring series and ice-core layers. The authors had just obtained carbon dates of 3360±40 BP, or 1617–1703 calibrated BC. They were suggesting a coincidence of a number of eruptions, such as the Minoan eruption on Santorini.[6] The hypothesis remains unverifiable a generation later, due to the overall imprecision of the dates.

The Nola bronze-age village[edit]

The eruption destroyed several Bronze Age settlements. The remarkably well-preserved remains of one were discovered in May 2001 at Croce del Papa near Nola by Italian archaeologists, with huts, pots, livestock and even the footprints of animals and people, as well as skeletons. The residents had hastily abandoned the village, leaving it to be buried under pumice and ash in much the same way Pompeii was later preserved.[7][8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sevink, Jan; et al. (2011), "Robust date for the Bronze Age Avellino eruption (Somma-Vesuvius): 3945 ± 10 calBP (1995 ± 10 calBC)", Quaternary Science Reviews, 30 (9–10): 1035–1046, Bibcode:2011QSRv...30.1035S, doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2011.02.001
  2. ^ Cioni, Raffaello; Levi, Sara; Sulpizio, Roberto (2000). "Apulian Bronze Age pottery as a long-distance indicator of the Avellino Pumice eruption (Vesuvius, Italy) — Abstract". Geological Society, London, Special Publications. London: Geological Society. 171 (1): 159–177. Bibcode:2000GSLSP.171..159C. doi:10.1144/GSL.SP.2000.171.01.13. S2CID 129583954.
  3. ^ Sulpizio, R.; Bonasia, R.; Dellino, P.; Mele, D.; Di Vito, M. A.; La Volpe, L. (23 February 2010). "The Pomici di Avellino eruption of Somma–Vesuvius (3.9 ka BP). Part II: sedimentology and physical volcanology of pyroclastic density current deposits — Abstract". Bulletin of Volcanology. Springer. 72 (5): 559. Bibcode:2010BVol...72..559S. doi:10.1007/s00445-009-0340-4. S2CID 129725019.
  4. ^ Giuseppe Mastrolorenzo; Pierpaolo Petrone; Lucia Pappalardo; Michael F. Sheridan (January 2006). "The Avellino 3780-yr-B.P. catastrophe as a worst-case scenario for a future eruption at Vesuvius". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 103 (12): 4366–4370. Bibcode:2006PNAS..103.4366M. doi:10.1073/pnas.0508697103. PMC 1450177. PMID 16537390.
  5. ^ Giardino 2005, pp. 628–629
  6. ^ Vogel, J. S.; Cornell, W.; Nelson, D.E.; Southon, J.R. (1990). "Letters to Nature: Vesuvius/Avellino, one possible source of seventeenth century BC climatic disturbances — Abstract". Nature. Nature Publishing Group. 344 (6266): 534–537. Bibcode:1990Natur.344..534V. doi:10.1038/344534a0. S2CID 4368499.
  7. ^ "An ancient Bronze Age village and a bucket (3500 bp) destroyed by the pumice eruption in Avellino (Nola-Campania)". Archived from the original on 2012-06-18. Retrieved 2006-12-08.
  8. ^ "Vesuvius' Next Eruption May Put Metro Naples at Risk - Lesson from Katrina is need to focus on "maximum probable hazard"". State University of New York. Archived from the original on 24 December 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-08.