Pompeii victims ‘killed by intense heat not suffocation’

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

LONDON - When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 70 AD, temperatures shot up to 600 degrees Celsius, killing residents instantly within a span of ten seconds, a study has revealed.

“Contrary to what was thought up until now, the victims didn’t suffer a prolonged agony from suffocation, but rather died instantaneously from the exposure to high temperatures,” Vancouver Sun quoted the team of volcanologists and anthropologists from Naples as stating.

“Our findings reveal that neither asphyxia nor impact force, but heat, caused the deaths,” they added.

Red-hot clouds of gas and fine ash known as pyroclastic density currents flowed down the slopes of Vesuvius, engulfing Pompeii’s frescoed villas, as well as its shops, public baths and brothels, where explicit erotic paintings and the customers’ graffiti can still be seen.

“Our results show that exposure to at least 250 C hot surges at a distance of 10 kilometres from the vent was sufficient to cause instant death, even if people were sheltered within buildings.”

The plaster casts of the victims’ contorted bodies at the moment they died, clinging to each other or burying their heads in their hands in a futile attempt to withstand the calamity, can still be seen today.

The find is published in a peer-reviewed science journal, PLoS ONE. (ANI)

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