Did Vesuvius vaporize its victims? Get the facts.
Residue on bones from A.D. 79 suggests the eruption boiled people alive. But some experts aren’t convinced the deaths were due to heat alone.
The infamous A.D. 79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius obliterated the surrounding landscape as well as residents of the Roman metropolises that stood in the volcano’s shadow. After heavy ash caused fatal building collapses in Pompeii, violent pyroclastic currents rocketed downslope and smothered the city, the nearby port town of Herculaneum, and several other sites.
Academics don’t debate the volcanic fury on display that day almost 2,000 years ago. Perhaps surprisingly, however, there is still considerable controversy about how most of its victims died. (Also find out what really happened to a headless Pompeii victim who made headlines in June.)
A team of Italian specialists recently revisited some of the most gruesome deaths in Herculaneum, in which people’s skulls had