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Just to the west of Naples, in Italy, is an area riddled with craters and cones. Jets of steam and sulfurous gases vent continuously from fissures and fumaroles, while the ground itself heaves, indicating that somewhere below is a supervolcano that’s growing increasingly restless.

The Phlegraean Fields, known as Campi Flegrei in Italian, first erupted some 39,000 years ago, and when it did, it was so massive that scientists believe that it triggered a climate change that drove the last of the Neanderthals to extinction. Ash falls from the eruption was detected as far away as Greenland, frozen and preserved in ancient ice shelves and glaciers. In the remote Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia, layers of ash were discovered in caves along with Neanderthal bones and artifacts.

campi-flegrei-3

Photo credit: Daniel Enchev/Flickr

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