An Alpine Pompeii from the Stone Age

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The fall of Pompeii began with a small cloud of smoke drifting out of Mt. Vesuvius. Within a few days, though, the affluent Roman city lay coated in a meter-thick shroud of ash. Even more devastating were the effects of a giant meteorite that crashed into the Gulf of Mexico 65 million years ago, bringing an end to the age of the dinosaurs.

Such violent events, putting human beings and animals at the mercy of destructive natural forces, have always stimulated the fantasies of those born afterwards. In some cases, however, the truth has been less dramatic. The notion that the Mayans starved to death because of failed harvests and that the palaces of the Minoans were destroyed by dramatic floods is just as untrue as the claim that murderers smashed a hole into the head of Tutankhamun.

Now scientists are examining a new catastrophic scenario. Could it be that a severe rockslide in the Alps destroyed a prehistoric village? Alexander Binsteiner, a geologist and flint stone expert, has proposed the thesis. He believes that the accident affected lake dwellers living on the eastern tip of Mondsee Lake, near present-day Salzburg.

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