A hypothesis of sudden body fluid vaporization in the 79 AD victims of Vesuvius

  • In AD 79 the town of Herculaneum was suddenly hit and overwhelmed by volcanic ash-avalanches that killed all its remaining residents, as also occurred in Pompeii and other settlements as far as 20 kilometers from Vesuvius. New investigations on the victims' skeletons unearthed from the ash deposit filling 12 waterfront chambers have now revealed widespread preservation of atypical red and black mineral residues encrusting the bones, which also impregnate the ash filling the intracranial cavity and the ash-bed encasing the skeletons. Here we show the unique detection of large amounts of iron and iron oxides from such residues, as revealed by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry and Raman microspectroscopy, thought to be the final products of heme iron upon thermal decomposition. The extraordinarily rare preservation of significant putative evidence of hemoprotein thermal degradation from the eruption victims strongly suggests the rapid vaporization of body fluids and soft tissues of people at death due to exposure to extreme heat.
Author:Pierpaolo Petrone, Piero Pucci, Alessandro Vergara, Angela Amoresano, Leila Birolo, Francesca Pane, Francesco Sirano, Massimo Niola, Claudio Buccelli, Vincenzo Graziano
Pubmed Id:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30256793
Parent Title (English):PLoS one
Place of publication:Lawrence, Kan.
Contributor(s):Siân Halcrow
Document Type:Article
Year of Completion:2018
Date of first Publication:2018/09/26
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2020/01/27
Tag:Archaeology; Bone; Bone fracture; Iron oxides; Magnetite; Skeleton; Skull; Volcanoes
Issue:(9): e0203210
Page Number:27
First Page:1
Last Page:27
Copyright: © 2018 Petrone et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Institutes:keine Angabe Fachbereich / Extern
Dewey Decimal Classification:6 Technik, Medizin, angewandte Wissenschaften / 61 Medizin und Gesundheit / 610 Medizin und Gesundheit
9 Geschichte und Geografie / 93 Geschichte des Altertums (bis ca. 499), Archäologie / 930 Geschichte des Altertums bis ca. 499, Archäologie
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung 4.0