The Survivors of Mount Vesuvius

Biblical Archaeology Society | 2/5/2020 | Staff
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Scholars have long debated whether there were many survivors of the volcanic eruption in Pompeii and Herculaneum, or if—as so many skeletons seem to indicate—the residents all perished. The discussions were often held without either side presenting evidence. Thanks to his painstaking research, Steven L. Tuck provides the previously elusive evidence.

For a disaster that happened in 79 C.E., the victims of Mount Vesuvius have been in the news a fair amount lately. Especially in Herculaneum, where the volcano’s eruption caused a pyroclastic flow, surging ash, gas, and rock.

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As reported in the New York Times, two recent studies have examined how people died in Herculaneum. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine asserts the intense heat from the flow converted the brain of one victim to glas—a process called vitrification. Antiquity journal of Cambridge shares research revealing that many of the people killed at the seaside were protected from vaporization by the stone structure of the boathouses where they hid. Instead they suffocated or asphyxiated, suffering a more excruciating death. Fox News Science also reports on the question of whether researchers have found the skull of Pliny the Elder, who is known to have perished in Herculaneum.

Before these studies were published, Steven L. Tuck’s article, “Rescuing and Recovering Vesuvius’s Survivors” (Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 2020) focused on those who did not die. He wanted to answer “whether anyone escaped Pompeii and Herculaneum. If so, where did they resettle, and did the Roman government matter in the aftermath of the disaster?”

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By tracing known proper names from Pompeii and Herculaneum, and then finding where those names appeared for the first time in nearby cities after the Mount Vesuvius’s eruption, he...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Biblical Archaeology Society
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