The famous lifelike poses of many victims at Pompeii—seated with face in hands, crawling, kneeling on a mother's lap—are helping to lead scientists toward a new interpretation of how these ancient Romans died in the A.D. 79 eruptions of Italy's Mount Vesuvius.
Until now it's been widely assumed that most of the victims were asphyxiated by volcanic ash and gas. But a recent study says most died instantly of extreme heat, with many casualties shocked into a sort of instant rigor mortis.
(Related: "Huge Vesuvius Eruption Buried Town 2,000 Years Before Pompeii.")
Volcanologist Giuseppe Mastrolorenzo and colleagues began by analyzing layers of buried volcanic ash and rock, then fed the data into a computer simulation of the Mount Vesuvius eruption.
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