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Condiments nail down Pliny’s Vesuvius eruption date


The Discovery Channel brings us a story on how the exact (well, semi-exact if you read the article) date for the 79 A.D. eruption of Vesuvius has been nailed down by dating, well, fish sauce. The findings? The records of antiquity were right, it was probably around August 24, 79 A.D. and if you get to page 2, you’ll find that the researchers – workers at the Pompeii’s Applied Research Laboratory – say the fish sauce dates the eruption to somewhere in mid-August to mid-September. Why is this important? Recent archeological studies at Pompeii found a coin that dates to October of 79 A.D., so the date of the eruption set by Pliny the Younger was cast into doubt … but not for long thanks to the Romans love of fish sauce.


This piece is a little bit of what I tend to think of “science media fluff”, not to say that the research is fluff, but it portrayed as kind of an quirky aside to “real” research. I’m never sure how to treat these, but it is at least fun to read about clever ways to date volcanic eruptions.


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