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Re: up Pompeii

> I just went on a visit to the buried city of Pompeii.  It occurred to me
> that in my limited understanding, there wasn't actually anything all
> that special about the nature of the eruption that covered the city, and
> that the reason we remember it is purely because there was a city there.

The reason why we remember the destruction of that city and why there is
something special about it is because we do know not only the superbly
preserved city caught in its life but we also have by educational
tradition for nearly 2000 years the eye-witness account of an 18 year old
natural scientist and many further documents that describe that life in
the city before the eruption. It is something special that we know the
names of the inhabitants and what they were doing and thinking. Is there
any other archaeological site were we have plenty of this kind of

> It occurred to me that there must be thousands of sites around the world
> where prehistoric eruptions of this type took place, and where preserved
> casts of whole animals might be made in the same way that those of
> people in Pompeii were created (i.e. bodies being covered in volcanic
> dust which solidified into rock before the bodies rotted away leaving
> cavities).

Neighboring site: Herculaneum (same eruption of Monte Somma - Vesuvius).
The only other occasion I know of is the case of a lava flow covering a
young elephant somewhere in Africa (I've forgotten where): The bones are
still placed within the otherwise empty body cavity.

> Apparently something similar happened to the bird/dinosaurs in China.

No, not similar; these fossils are not preserved three-dimensional, no
cavities, bones and even soft parts not dissolved ...

> It just seems surprising that the search for dinosaur Pompeiis aren't
> well publicised - potential sites ought to exist given the data which
> I'm assuming exists about the history of eruptions, and the rather
> obvious geographical signs of volcanoes.

After some million years bones tend to be dissolved and the cavities left
behind are most frequently crushed or filled in with minerals. This kind
of natural cast is found rather frequently and is well known in
volcanoclastic sediments. The volcanoes of dinosaur times though have not
left any geographical signs visible today, and the history of eruptions is
hard to decipher even for Pleistocene and Holocene volcanism.

Dr. Markus Moser
(frequent visitor to Napoli, Pompeii, and Vesuvio)
Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Stuttgart
Rosenstein 1
D-70191 Stuttgart
Bayerische Staatssammlung fuer
Palaeontologie und Geologie
Richard-Wagner-Str. 10
D-80333 Muenchen