Tim Kohler

When the last of the volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius settled over Pompeii in A.D. 79, it preserved a detailed portrait of life in the grand Roman city, from bristling military outposts to ingenious aqueducts. Now researchers say the eruption nearly 2,000 years ago also captured clues to one of today’s most pressing social problems.

Analyzing dwellings in Pompeii and 62 other archaeological sites dating back 11,200 years, a team of experts has ranked the distribution of wealth in those communities. Bottom line: economic disparities increased over the centuries and technology played a role.
The research is being published this month in Ten Thousand Years of Inequality, a book edited by Smith and Timothy Kohler of Washington State University.

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