Archaeology & History
Preserved brain cells found in Vesuvius victim
By T.K. Randall
October 8, 2020 · 1 comment
The eruption of Mt Vesuvius 2,000 years ago was utterly devastating. Image Credit: Sebastian Pether
Scientists have discovered the preserved brain cells of a man who died during the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD.
It is perhaps the best known volcanic disaster in history - a catastrophic event that buried countless thousands under huge amounts of choking ash and most famously, the entire Roman city of Pompeii.
The vitrified remains of the volcano's victims, some of which were found still standing in the same positions they were in when the devastating pyroclastic flow hit the city, have been the subject of study for years and have taught historians much about what life was like there before the disaster.
Now scientists studying the remains of a man who was found in the 1960s on a wooden bed in the nearby town of Herculaneum has revealed - for the first time - preserved brain cells turned into a glass-like material by the searing temperature of the eruption combined with the rapid cooling that followed immediately after.
This process effectively 'froze' the neuronal structures in the brain, keeping them intact.
"The evidence of a rapid drop of temperature - witnessed by the vitrified brain tissue - is a unique feature of the volcanic processes occurring during the eruption, as it could provide relevant information for possible interventions by civil protection authorities during the initial stages of a future eruption," said study lead author Pier Paolo Petrone from the University Federico II in Naples.
Source: The Guardian
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