Mount Vesuvius eruption boiled people's blood, made skulls explode
The eruption quickly killed those caught in its intense wake.
- The eruption occurred in the year 79 A.D.
- New research suggests the people of the town of Herculaneum were killed nearly instantly by intense heat
- According to recent findings, the victims' blood boiled, and their soft tissues were vaporized.
Residents of Herculaneum found in a "life-like" stance, rather than curled up, indicates near-instant death.
Imagine living next to Mount Vesuvius in the 1st century, four miles away in the ancient town of Herculaneum. And imagine not knowing that the volcano was about to erupt. What archaeologists are currently trying to piece together now is what happened next.
Hint: It's not pretty. The possible blessing for residents of the town, however, is that what happened was quick — quicker than being cremated, by far.
The seaside chambers
First Phase (Surge 1)
Vesuvius erupts about every 2000 years. When such a volcano erupts, there are at least two phases:
- The initial fallout phase, called the pumice air-fall phase, was dispersed 70 km (about 44 miles). This is what buried Pompeii.
- The "pyroclastic surges and flows" phase is next, which involves rapid, gravity-driven currents of hot gases mixed with volcanic ash, generated by the collapse of the eruptive column.
From what has been found in the archaeological exploration, the second phase is what the residents of Herculaneum found in this gathering endured, as well as the surviving residents of the initial phase in Pompeii. This particular set of 300 human remains were found in 12 seaside chambers, where undoubtedly they sought shelter after seeing the initial eruption.
However, unbeknownst to the asylum seekers, the temperatures in the ash/hot gas currents can reach from 200–300 degrees °C to a whopping 500 degrees °C. What archaeologists found upon unearthing the victims were all direct evidence that they died almost instantly, rather than over time as previously theorized.
And — here's where it gets rather macabre — the evidence strongly indicates they died from their blood boiling, skulls fracturing (and even exploding from said blood boiling). Their bodily fluids and soft tissues, the researchers say, experienced a "rapid vaporization."
In their words, the remains they discovered "strongly suggest a widespread pattern of heat-induced hemorrhage, intracranial pressure increase and bursting, most likely to be the cause of instant death of the inhabitants in Herculaneum."
Who is to blame for the U.S.'s dismal college graduation rate? "Radical" educator Dennis Littky has a hunch.
- COVID-19 has magnified the challenges that underserved communities face with regard to higher education, such as widening social inequality and sky-high tuition.
- At College Unbound, where I am president, we get to know students individually to understand what motivates them, so they can build a curriculum based on goals they want to achieve.
- My teaching mantra: Everything is permitted during COVID-19. Everything is permitted during COVID-19. Everything is permitted during COVID-19.
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One of life's great mysteries, the Bermuda Triangle might have finally found an explanation. This strange region, that lies in the North Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda, Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico, has been the presumed cause of dozens and dozens of mind-boggling disappearances of ships and planes.
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The planet that we are searching for is a little bit smaller and closer than we originally thought.
- Years ago, California Institute of Technology professor Konstantin Batygin was inspired to embark on a journey of discovering what lurked beyond Neptune. What he and his collaborator discovered was a strange field of debris.
- This field of debris exhibited a clustering of orbits, and something was keeping these orbits confined. The only plausible source would be the gravitational pull of an extra planet—Planet Nine.
- While Planet Nine hasn't been found directly, the pieces of the puzzle are coming together. And Batygin is confident we'll return to a nine-planet solar system within the next decade.