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  1. Abstract Following rapid decompression in the conduit of a volcano, magma breaks into ash- to block-sized fragments, powering explosive sub-Plinian and Plinian eruptions that may generate destructive pyroclastic falls and flows. It is thus crucial to assess how magma breaks up into fragments. This task is difficult, however, because of the subterranean nature of the entire process and because the original size of pristine fragments is modified by secondary fragmentation and expansion. New textural observations of sub-Plinian and Plinian pumice lapilli reveal that some primary products of magma fragmentation survive by sintering together within seconds of magma break-up. Their size distributions reflect the energetics of fragmentation, consistent with products of rapid decompression experiments. Pumice aggregates thus offer a unique window into the previously inaccessible primary fragmentation process and could be used to determine the potential energy of fragmentation.