Black 'rock' from AD 79 Italy eruption is part of exploded brain

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Monday, May 27, 2024

Black 'rock' from AD 79 Italy eruption is part of exploded brain
This fragment is actually part of an exploded brain. Photo: Pier Paolo Petrone.

by Franck Iovene/ Alexandria Sage

ROME (AFP).- It looks like a piece of rock - black, shiny and unexceptional.

But Italian anthropologists say the fragment is actually part of an exploded brain from an unfortunate victim of the volcanic eruption of Italy's Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.

The discovery -- published on Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine -- is a rarity in archaeology, and researchers called the find from the ruins of Herculaneum near Pompeii "sensational".

Scholars who for years have studied the grisly remains of those trapped by ash, lava and toxic gasses when the volcano erupted in southern Italy were intrigued by a curious glassy material found inside one victim's skull.

"In October 2018, I was able to look at these remnants and I saw that something was shimmery in the shattered skull," Pier Paolo Petrone, one of the researchers, told AFP.

Petrone, a forensic anthropologist from the University of Naples Federico II, said he was "pretty sure this material was human brain".

Further analysis by Piero Pucci from the CEINGE advanced biotech centre in Naples confirmed that it did indeed contain bits of proteins and fatty acids from hair and brain tissue.

Herculaneum, named after the Greek god Hercules, was a popular resort town for the rich northwest of Pompeii when Vesuvius erupted. The molten lava covered the city and everything in it 16 metres (50 feet) deep, later solidifying and preserving organic remains.

The man at the centre of the discovery is believed to have been the custodian of the College of the Augustales, centre of the cult of Emperor Augustus. His charred body was discovered in the 1960s inside his quarters, laid out on his wooden bed.

Researchers believe the heat rose to 520 degrees Celsius (970 degrees Fahrenheit) from the hot gasses from the eruption -- temperatures high enough to make body fat ignite and vaporise soft tissues. A rapid drop in temperature ensued, a poorly understood phenomenon that nevertheless helped vitrify human remains.

"The high heat was literally able to burn the victim's fat and body tissues, causing the brain to vitrify," the archaeological site of Herculaneum said in a statement.

The discovery was the result of a collaboration between the director of Herculaneum, CEINGE in Naples, and researchers from the University of Naples Federico II and Cambridge University.

Also on Thursday, academics from Britain's Teesside and York Universities published new research in the Antiquity journal about the Herculaneum victims.

Studies on the ribs of 152 skeletons showed that residents died not because of extreme heat but because of toxic gasses, they found. Collagen that remained in the bones was "inconsistent with vaporisation", Teesside said in a statement.

Researchers studying the archaeological site of Herculaneum have already managed to uncover family relationships between victims based on their DNA. Seven women and three men found to be related all came from the Middle East, suggesting that they may have been slaves.

As for the custodian's brain -- it, too, could offer more clues.

"If we manage to reheat the material, liquefy it, we could maybe find this individual's DNA," Petrone said.

"That will be the next step."

© Agence France-Presse

Today's News

January 24, 2020

Joan B Mirviss LTD features Japanese Modern Art at The Winter Show 2020

Egypt court jails ex- Italian diplomat for smuggling artefacts

Black 'rock' from AD 79 Italy eruption is part of exploded brain

Museum CEO apologizes for handling of staff complaints

The Kunsthaus Zürich opens a major solo exhibition by Olafur Eliasson

Obama portraits to tour the nation

Native Americans get a stronger voice in the Mayflower story

Kazimir Malevich painting now on view at Zimmerli Art Museum

Ruiz-Healy Art opens exhibitions of work by Jesse Amado and Alejandro Diaz

Kasmin opens an exhibition of paper collages by German surrealist Max Ernst

Peter Saul’s first solo show with Almine Rech opens in Paris

CSU's Art Museum features Kandinsky, Torres-García and other modern masters

TEFAF releases the first look at TEFAF Maastricht 2020

Artists Dana James and John Knuth join Hollis Taggart's growing contemporary program

New craft-based exhibition highlights questions of identity, race, and religion

Museum of Arts and Design appoints Christian Larsen as Windgate Research Curator

The New Orleans Museum of Art presents Torkwase Dyson: Black Compositional Thought

Campaign to save Derek Jarman's Cottage, launched by artists including Tilda Swinton

Fridman Gallery opens Light Shop, Jan Tichy's second solo exhibition with the gallery

Over the Influence opens Peter Shire's first exhibition in Hong Kong

1930 motorbike being sold by RAF bomber pilot to save a church

By Toutatis! France unveils statue to Asterix creator

Sharjah Art Foundation acquires Otobong Nkanga's prize-winning Sharjah Biennial 14 work

Once 'Little Joe,' now a reigning New York City Ballet principal

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

sa gaming free credit
Truck Accident Attorneys
Accident Attorneys

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site Parroquia Natividad del Señor
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful