ROME — Traditionally, it has been held that the lives of ancient Pompeiians were tragically cut short on Aug. 24, A.D. 79, when Mount Vesuvius unleashed its fury, smothering Pompeii and other cities along its perimeter with volcanic debris.
A study by Italian authors made public on Thursday gives weight to theories that shift the date of the eruption by two months, to the end of October or even early November. It cites — among other evidence — the discovery during a recent site excavation of a charcoal inscription scrawled on a wall on Oct. 17, A.D. 79.
“That inscription is certainly dated after Aug. 24,” the date used by generations of scholars, based on an account by the Roman author Pliny the Younger, who witnessed the eruption, said Giovanni P. Riccardi, an associate researcher of the Vesuvius Observatory of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, and one of the authors of the study. The later dating, he added, confirmed other evidence that has emerged over the years challenging the August dating.
Since 1748, when the first excavations began, the ancient city of Pompeii has captured the popular imagination as a testament to the arbitrariness of nature and the fragility of humankind.
In their introduction to the study, the scientists note that nearly 2000 years after the eruption, the lure of Pompeii has inspired movies and television series; art, including Andy Warhol’s pop version of “Vesuvius”; and music, like the 2013 hit “Pompeii” by the British rock band Bastille.
Over the years, excavations at the buried city have provided insight about the life of the ancient Romans, and new technology has offered even more detailed clues about their lives, including culinary habits.
Research at the site, said Sandro de Vita, a co-author who…