Our visions of Pompeii's destruction just got a little more gruesome.
Giorgio Sommer/Public Domain
For nearly two millennia, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius has served as a stark reminder that nature is capable of some serious violence. The helpless residents of Pompeii and Herculaneum were inundated by volcanic horror, bludgeoned by hot ash avalanches that asphyxiated them while preserving their bodies for centuries afterward, within an unforgettable necropolis. At least, that’s what we always assumed. It turns out, many people probably died in ways that were more grisly than we imagined.
In findings published in PLOS One late last month, researchers from Naples, Italy found that a segment of Vesuvius victims were likely killed by fast-moving laving surges that streamed down toward the towns below, creating temperatures high enough to vaporize bodily fluids and create explosions in the skull. It’s about as horrific a way to go as you might imagine, and upends the notion that the toxic gases and thick chunks of ash were responsible for choking inhabitants to death during the AD 79 eruption.
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