- The eru
ption of Mount Vesuvius produced extreme heat that turned a vi ctim’s br ain into glass
- Researchers extracted fragments of a glassy, black material from the person’s s
- The black material is believed to be the vitrified re
mains of the man’s brain
The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD was so powerful that thousands of people perished and settlements were de
stroyed. It also produced extreme heat that turned a vi ctim’s brain into glass.
In a study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Jan. 23, researchers who have been studying the remains of one of the volcano’s vi
ctims that were unearthed in the 1960s reported extracting fragments of a glassy, black material from the person’s skull.
The researchers think that the black material is the vitrified re
mains of the man’s b rain. Vitrification occurs when a material that was bur ned at a high heat cooled rapidly turning it into glass or glaze.
Study researcher Pier Paola Petrone, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Naples Federico II, said that the find is the first discovery of ancient human b
rain remains that were vitrified by heat.
“The preservation of ancient br
ain remains is an extremely rare find,” Petrone said.
The ancient volc
anic eru ption spewed molten rock, pumice, and hot ash over the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The re mains of the victim, who is believed to be in his mid-20s, were found lying on a wooden bed buried by volcanic ash at Herculaneum.
Analysis of the charred wood found near his body revealed that the temperature during the volc
anic eru ption reached up to 520° Celsius
The researchers believe that extreme radiant heat ignited the man’s body fat and vaporized his soft tissues before a rapid drop in temperature occurred.
“The detection of glassy material from the vi
ctim’s head, of proteins expressed in human b rain, and of fatty acids found in human hair indicates the thermally induced preservation of vitrified human b rain tissue,” Petrone and colleagues wrote in their study.