In 1981 an excavation in the ancient city of Herculaneum’s waterfront uncovered the remains of victims of the Mount Vesuvius eruption in 79AD. The skeletal remains of 55 Roman citizens (30 men, 13 women, 12 children) were located in vacant boathouses on a small beach with a waterway leading out to sea. With the absence of (functional) boats on site led to the theory that this was the site of an evacuation.
Originally it’s been accepted that these individuals died from suffocation due to the Pyroclastic flow from Mount Vesuvius, because of the skeletal state of the remains, it made it easier to examine possible causes of death unlike the famous ghostly remains of the victims of the city of Pompeii.
A recent study published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE offers a disturbing hypothesis, the 55 victims in the boathouses of Herculaneum’s waterfront died as a result of their blood boiling to the point it made their heads “explode”. No not like the famous scene from “Scanners”, their skulls would have cracked at the seam allowing steam to escape.
The moment the skulls “exploded” the brain was instantly turned to ash due to the body’s sudden exposure to 400-900 degree temperatures that also burned away muscle tissues preventing the “pugilist” position to form. The “pugilist” position occurs when the human body burns and “curls” into a boxing-like position, much like how the victims of Pompeii look signifying that the victims of the famed Pompeii (which was father from Vesuvius than Herculaneum) burned at a lower temperature (200-250 degrees).
For as violent a gruesome as the deaths sound, scientists believe strongly that the deaths were instant due to the sudden increase in temperature mixed with toxic gasses and ash. Further testing will be needed to prove if the boiling of blood occurred before or after the deaths as well as determining the origins of the mysterious red/black residue found on some of the bodies and skulls.