Disturbing Findings About the Mount Vesuvius Eruption
Thu, February 2, 2023

Disturbing Findings About the Mount Vesuvius Eruption


When Mount Vesuvius in Italy erupted in 79 A.D., it buried the ancient Roman city of Pompeii under a thick carpet of volcanic ash. The damage wreaked in nearby towns was catastrophic, killing over 16,000 people and leaving the cities abandoned for many centuries. All of them suffered horrible deaths from the heat and ash of the explosion, which caused their blood to boil and their skulls to consequently explode. Some bodies weren’t found until the 1980s. 


Photo Credits: All That's Interesting


Several centuries have passed but scientists are not yet done discovering more facts about the eruption. A recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine uncovered a disturbing finding from one of the Vesuvius brain’s brain matter. They detailed how the man’s brain transformed into twisted, glassy bits. Usually, scientists only find the soap-like texture of brain tissue. This occurs during saponification, a process when triglycerides in the fatty brain tissue react to charged particles in the environment.


PhotoCredits: All That's Interesting


Thus, finding brain tissue like this is a big deal because uncovering pieces of brain matter among these volcanic eruption victims is rare. According to All That’s Interesting, a site for curious people who want to know more about what they see on the news or read in history books, the glass pieces of the brain were formed through a process called vitrification in which matter goes through extreme heat and morphs into something glass-like. 


PhotoCredits: All That's Interesting


The circumstances of the man’s death explained how his brain matter hardened into black glass. Just like other victims, the man’s skull had exploded due to extreme heat. The only difference is his brain vitrified into a glass, suggesting that a rapid drop in temperature may have followed in the immediate environment surrounding this particular victim. “This suggests extreme radiant heat was able to ignite body fat and vaporize soft tissues; a rapid drop in temperature followed,” the study noted.



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