The archaeological site of Herculaneum in Ercolano, near Naples, with the Mount Vesuvius volcano in the background (Image: AP/ Getty)
People who died in the Mount Vesuvius eruption of AD79 had a slower death than previously believed, according to new research.
It is commonly thought that people living in the seaside town of Herculaneum, who fled to stone boathouses along the beachfront when the volcano erupted, were vaporised by the extreme heat of the volcanic eruption.
But a new analysis of skeletons from the scene shows that they may have lived long enough to suffocate from the toxic fumes of the pyroclastic flow – the devastating, ultra-fast stream of hot gas and volcanic matter which flows from some eruptions.
Archaeologists found that the structure of the skeletons and remaining collagen was inconsistent with vaporisation, suggesting that the bodies were not exposed to temperatures as extreme as expected.
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