The city of Pompeii is arguably one of the most famous sites in Italy, primarily known for the devastating volcanic eruption that destroyed the city and killed its 11,000 inhabitants in 79 AD. Along with Herculaneum and many nearby villas, Pompeii was buried beneath 13 to 20 feet of ash and pumice after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and was lost to the rest of the world until it was rediscovered in 1599, then more fully unearthed in 1748 by Spanish engineer Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre. Pliny the Younger described the eruption and resulting catastrophic loss of life in a letter he wrote while witnessing the destruction from a distance. His uncle, the Roman admiral Pliny the Elder, died while attempting to rescue citizens.
The results of the eruption have been likened to a photograph preserving the exact moment in time that the volcanic ash descended upon the city – due to a lack of air and moisture, objects have been astonishingly well-preserved through the centuries, offering a glimpse of everyday life in Pompeii. During the excavation in 1748, plaster was used to fill in the voids in the ash layers that once held human bodies, outlining the exact position the person was in when they died.