'New Pompeii' uncovered on Indonesian island

Scientists say they have discovered a new Pompeii on one of the tropical islands of Indonesia, a town preserved under the ash from the biggest volcanic eruption of modern times.

The researchers believe that what they have uncovered are the last remains of a civilisation that was wiped out by the cataclysmic eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815 on the island of Sumbawa.

So far a team from the US and Indonesia has unearthed the remains of a thatched house, with the carbonised bodies of two people still intact inside it. But the academics believe this is just one corner of an entire town which was home to 10,000 people and lies preserved under the ground.

"There is potential that Tambora could be the Pompeii of the east and it could be of great cultural interest,'' said Professor Haraldur Sigurdsson of the University of Rhode Island, who led the excavation. "All the people, their houses and culture are still encapsulated there as they were in 1815."

The eruption of Mount Tambora on 10 April 1815 was the biggestrecorded. It was four times more powerful than the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883. It was so loud it was heard 1,700 miles away, and people felt the concussions of blasts for 1,000 miles around.

The eruption sent up a column of smoke 28 miles high. Ash fell up to 800 miles away, and 40 miles from the volcano it fell so thickly that roofs of houses caved in under its weight. More than 10,000 people were killed in the immediate eruption, by lava, rock and hot ash. In the weeks that followed, as many as 117,000 died as crops failed in fields choked with ash, and from disease.

The civilisation of Tambora died out . "The explosion wiped out the language. That's how big it was," said Professor Sigurdsson. "But we're trying to get these people to speak again, by digging."

The Western world had only just encountered the Tambora civilisation when it was extinguished. British and Dutch explorers reach-ed Sumbawa in the early 1800s and spoke of encount-ering a civilisation that spoke a language unlike any other in Indonesia.

The new finds have borne out contemporary accounts that Tambora was not a primitive society but a civilisation. They have found bronze, pottery and glass. In the house they found carbonised remains of a woman in what appears to have been the kitchen, with a melted glass bottle and a metal machete close by. The remains of a second person were found outside what appeared to be the front door.

"If it's true that they found such remains, it will reveal the culture at that time," said Atje Purbawinata of the Volcanological Survey of Indonesia.

The researchers say the pottery they found bears a striking resemblance to pottery from the Mon Khmer civilisation in Vietnam and Cambodia of the time. Other academics have dismissed speculation the Tambora civilisation might have migrated from Indochina, saying it is more likely the pottery arrived by trading.

The lost town was discovered by Professor Sigurdsson and his colleagues in 2004 after they followed a guide who said local people had found ancient artefacts in the area. But there have been accusations from the Indonesian Institute of Science that they did not obtain a permit before digging in the area.

The eruption of Mount Tambora is of interest amid current concerns over climate change. It spewed so much ash into the atmosphere that it caused "global cooling" to such an extent that 1816 was known as "the year without a summer", or "Eighteen hundred and froze to death". In the US state of Maine, crops were killed by frost in June, July and August. Brown snow fell in Hungary. Globally, the temperature fell by 1C.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

The best swimwear for men

From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

Mark Hix goes summer foraging

 A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

Aaron Ramsey interview

Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men