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Did victims of Vesuvius die more slowly than previously thought?

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Vesuvius victims in Herculaneum
Did victims of Vesuvius die more slowly than previously thought?

The latest research of the team of scientists in “Antiquity” conducted on the remains of 152 victims of Vesuvius from 79 CE, suggests that the temperature that surprised the hiding residents was not as high as previously thought.

In 1981, human skeletons from the first century CE were unearthed in Herculaneum. Altogether 55 skeletons were found (30 adult men, 13 adult women and 12 children). The discovery was found on the beach and in the chambers for boats on the shore. Since only a few skeletons had been found before, it was thought that almost all residents of the city managed to escape the disaster. However, the 1981 discovery changed the view of scientists. In total, over 300 human remains were discovered.

The inhabitants of Herculaneum, waiting on the shore for rescue from the sea, died as a result of a strong heat flush. High temperature caused contraction of members and breaking bones or teeth. The temperature was hitherto estimated at around 500°C and death was thought to be sudden.

However, the latest research mentioned above contradicts this thesis. Collagen was found in the bones, which should evaporate in the event of very high temperatures. Researchers suggest that the cloud of gases that fell on hiding residents may have been below 400°C; thus, the victims were severely burned from the outside, while maintaining internal organs in such a way that death did not occur immediately. It is possible that death could also take place, for example, as a result of suffocation with poisonous gases.


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