Monday, December 26, 2022

Something About Vesuvian Victims

Spero autem quod in pett sed planeta rutilans.
This won’t be the first time we end the year with a story about Pompeii.  The ancient town is best remembered for being destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.  Bellairs told the fanciful story of the supposed Saint Floradora in his first book, Saint Fidgeta and Other Parodies (1966).  She too was a victim of the eruption.  And it was Ravi Rajan's recent article at the Hidden History blog that painted a picture of what Floradora and scores of citizens would have gone through.

And it’s far from pretty.
The standard historical interpretation of that horrific event was that the toxic gases and thick chunks of ash released from the volcano instantly choked every inhabitant to death.

However, new studies conducted by British and Italian scholars prove that some residents had died an excruciating death by slowly getting ‘baked’ and suffocated by the fumes for an extended period of time.

At such high temperatures, archaeologists expected that the people would have died instantly, sparing them the misery of death. But unfortunately, that was not the case, as a new study captured the last miserable hours of the Pompeii residents.

The study on more than 150 skeletons concluded that while most of the people died instantly from the heat, the less fortunate ones suffered slowly as their bodies began to cook in the heat. Their skin and muscles swelled, driving moisture from soft tissue inward toward the bone.

Pierpaolo Petrone, a physical and forensic anthropologist at the University of Naples, also argues that some bodies elsewhere in another nearby city Herculaneum, also show signs of dramatic thermal trauma.

As per him, a few of the skulls had fractures radiating from a central point. These fractures prove that the people's skulls exploded due to the blinding heat as their brains boiled over and pressure built up inside their skulls.

And in some cases, a black, hardened substance was found inside the skull. As per Petrone, the black substance was hardened glass created by solidifying a person’s molten brain after cooling.
The hardened substance inside the skull reminds me of Vesuvianite, a silicate mineral, first discovered within included blocks or adjacent to lavas on Mount Vesuvius, hence its name. It also reminds me of crystal skulls - but that's ... no, let's not go there.

Onward - and happy new year.

No comments: