A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
Forty-eight additional victims of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79 have recently been found and, according to anthropologists at Naples University, they didn't die the way that we think they did.
Scholars have generally assumed that the people who sought refuge from the eruption on the beach of Herculaneum suffocated on the enormous amounts of ash generated by the volcano. By studying the bone fragments and the positions of the remains of the new 48 victims from the beach site, the anthropologists argue that they have established "beyond a doubt" that they died in a fraction of a second after being exposed to blast of 750-degree Fahrenheit heat.
Like other victims of Mt. Vesuvius that have been recovered from Herculaneum and Pompeii, the remains of the 48 consist of molds created when ash and boiling mud covered the bodies and subsequently hardened. Casts of the victims are created by injecting silicone rubber into the molds.
The position of the remains indicates that adults were attempting to shield children at the time of death. Thirty-one of the molds were complete. A bracelet in the shape of a snake, money, and metal fittings from shoes were also recovered.
More on the final days of Herculaneum can be found in ARCHAEOLOGY's upcoming profile of world-renowned volcanologist Haraldur Sigurdsson, whose pioneering studies on volcanoes and archaeology has changed the way we look at the past. Sigurdsson's profile is scheduled to be published in the May/June 2000 issue.