Domenico Fontana, an Italian architect, discovered the ruins of Pompeii in 1549, but it was not excavated until 1748. The cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii in southern Italy were preserved under layers of ash after Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D.
Mount Vesuvius caused earthquakes in 62 or 63 A.D. but lay dormant until the earth tremors foreshadowing the 79 A.D. eruption. Pliny the Younger, an historian living in the Bay of Naples, wrote letters describing his eyewitness account. Mount Vesuvius emitted molten hot rock and gas, covering the cities in hot ash, pumice and rocky fragments. Victims died of heat and asphyxiation. Skeletons and artifacts were preserved and later discovered, including weapons, furniture, keys and utensils. Although Fontana dug a tunnel through Pompeii in the late 16th century, it was not until 1748 that Pompeii was excavated.