An unfinished vase from the Pompeii site.
by Rossella Lorenzi
French and Italian archaeologists digging out a pottery workshop in Pompeii have brought to light 10 raw clay vases, revealing a frozen-in-time picture of the exact moment panicked potters realized they were facing an impending catastrophe.
The vases were found sealed under a layer of ash and pumice from Mount Vesuvius' devastating eruption of 79 A.D. and it appears they were just ready to be fired.
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They were dropped and abandoned, along with the kilns, after frightened potters saw a pine tree-shaped column of smoke bursting from Vesuvius on Aug. 24, 79 A.D.
Reaching nine miles into the sky, the column began spewing a thick pumice rain. Like many Pompeii residents, the scared potters probably rushed in the streets, trying to leave the city.
"They abandoned the workshop and everything they were doing at that moment," dig director Laëtitia Cavassa of the Center Jean Bérard, told Discovery News.
The pottery workshop was found in the area just outside the Herculaneum Gate. It consists of at least three rooms and two kilns.
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"All the tools for the production of vases came to light with this excavation, including the pottery wheels," Fabio Galeandro, archaeologist at Pompeii surperintendency, told Discovery News.
Decorated with small carvings, the newly unearthed vases were used to pour wine or water.
"They are really unique items. The potters made them with clay, embellished them with decorations, and were ready to place them into the kiln when the Vesuvius erupted," Cavassa said.
Eventually, over the centuries, the clay dried naturally, leaving a unique material for archaeologists to research.
"These vases are direct evidence that the workshop was fully active at the moment of the eruption. They represent a key element in the study of craft activities in the Roman town," Pompeii's archaeological superintendency said in a statement.