Over the past few weeks we’ve blogged about some serious topics, so we thought it would be a good time to post something on the weird and somewhat wacky. Literally.
We will tell you the punchline first and then give you the background. We know people don’t like to read too much these days…
If you visit Naples and take a day trip to Pompeii, be sure to visit the man, forever frozen in ash, who looks to be masturbating in his last moments. Most reports say that’s not what he was doing….In fact, his private pose is probably something far more terrifying.
Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D., and buried the ancient Roman city of Pompeii under a thick carpet of volcanic ash. According to a witness, and we didn’t think there were any, the dust “poured across the land” like a flood, and shrouded the city in “a darkness…like the black of closed and unlighted rooms.” These unfortunate victims were buried for 1,700 years under 30 feet of mud and ash.
When erupted, it sent a surge of super-heated volcanic material through the city of Pompeii. About 2000 people were killed and the city was buried in a thick carpet of volcanic ash. Like a horror movie in real life, the heat was so intense that many of the victims suffered sudden muscle contractions that left them frozen in contorted or crouching poses. So, the man most likely did not die in a moment of pleasure, but probably instantly in a blast of hot gas, which he probably didn’t see coming.
In 2001 a study looked at 80 skeletons taken from ash that had solidified. It found signs that the victims close to the eruption would have been killed before they felt any pain. Other victims were killed by falling debris in collapsed buildings, or possibly by suffocating in the ash. So, did the man die in action or from the horrifying heat…
How do we see these ash-mummies? It didn’t happen by accident. In the 1800’s the site was excavated, and someone realized that if they poured plaster of Paris into the voids in the compacted ash, molds could be made that captured the victims’ bodies, facial expressions, and final poses.
Let’s just say that one of the molds certainly looks to have captured a man in mid-wack.
“Heretofore archaeologists misinterpreted them as people struggling to breathe and believed they died suffocated by ashes,” Volcanologist Giuseppe Mastrolorenzo has said. “Now we know that couldn’t be.”
Because of the extreme heat, “when the pyroclastic surge hit Pompeii, there was no time to suffocate,” he said. “The contorted postures are not the effects of a long agony, but of the cadaveric spasm, a consequence of heat shock on corpses.”
Check out the photos and see for yourself!