Sequencing the genome of a Pompeii resident and solving a 2,000 year old mystery

Originally published at: Sequencing the genome of a Pompeii resident and solving a 2,000 year old mystery | Boing Boing


The only people who could have survived would have to leave the city almost as soon as the eruption began its Plinean phase. As soon as the ash cloud hit the stratosphere and began to spread out, the city would have been engulfed in darkness.

In the first part of the eruption, there was a rain of small debris which would have hurt anyone outside, but probably not have injured them. However, the ash haze would have caused even the fittest people to choke. Inside, some of the ash wouldn’t be filling the air, there would be klight from lamps and you wouldn’t risk being hit by the increasingly large rocks about 10cm across falling on the city.

Unfortunately, those people would never leave the city.

Stuck indoors they would either have died from heat prostration as the falling ash gradually cooked the roofs to about 120C; died when those overloaded roofs collapsed under the torrent of ash; or finally, when the eruption collapsed sometime in the small hours of the second day. Two pyroclastic flows hit Pompeii, the second of which levelled the city.

Simply unimaginable horror.

One of the fascinating facts about Pompeii is that there are no records from the Roman Period of any survivors. Not even those who left the city early on 24th August who would have had a chance of survival. We know from Pliny the Younger’s writings that attempts were made to save people in Pompeii and Stabiae, but have no idea as to their success. Much of the area around Pompeii has never been excavated - indeed a lot of it is now built on - so there is the gruesome possibility that there are tens of thousands of bodies still there.


This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.