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Mount Vesuvius is an active volcano located just east of Naples, Italy. It is the only volcano on the continent of Europe to have erupted in the last one hundred years, though other volcanoes have erupted on islands in the Mediterranean Sea. In 1631, approximately three thousand people were killed by an eruption from Mount Vesuvius. Since 1631, the 4,200 foot high volcano has erupted at least twenty one times. Mount Vesuvius is considered particularly dangerous because today, nearly three million people live in the direct path of a potential future eruption.


Mount Vesuvius is most famous for its landmark eruption in the year 79 AD, which buried the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in layers of burning ash. The only account of the eruption that survives is from Pliny the Younger. From his dramatic account, scientists believe the cloud of ash he witnessed that descended upon Pompeii was twenty miles high. The city of Pompeii was completely buried. It was rediscovered in 1748, more than 1600 years after the eruption. The people of Pompeii were found buried under 12 layers of soil. Many of the buildings were amazingly well-preserved, as were the bodies of those who were just going about their daily routines when the eruption occurred. The ruins at Pompeii have provided archaeologists with valuable information about how people in the Roman Empire lived. Today, Pompeii is one of the most visited sites in Italy.