This interesting documentary was shown a couple of nights ago on the YESTERDAY channel, and may be available on the UKTV player soon. It is also scheduled to be repeated over the coming days on YESTERDAY, and will hopefully be put on rotation too.
It presents a new theory that the people of Pompeii died not from suffocation due to a volcanic ash shower, spat out during Mount Vesuvius’ 1st eruption in the infamous 79AD volcanic event, but from the extreme heat of the gases accompanying the second pyroclastic flow, which occurred during the second eruption.
This article was written for the onTV column, on the soon-to-be-launched London Inquirer news website. They have kindly allowed us to publish it here exclusively first.
This new investigation into the massive historical eruption, which actually featured six large eruptions and many accompanying pyroclastic events, and which famously left the bodies of Pompeii’s inhabitants eerily frozen in time, yields an interesting hypothesis indeed.
Based on the body positions at death, and damage caused to the remains, Dr Margaret Mountford presents evidence that the people of Pompeii were frozen in time due to a 40mph 300°c heat wave, as part of one of the pyroclastic flows, completely overturning the generally-accepted explanation of their fate (suffocation by an enormous shower of volcanic ash).
And the difference in the state of the victims’ remains at the town of Herculaneum (5km closer to the eruption point of Mount Vesuvius) are also used to prove the argument. Their tissue was vaporised, leaving only skeletal remains.
On the other hand, the human remains that can be found in Pompeii are still fully-formed humans, with most tissue and even clothes, left in place. They are certainly not skeletons that had their tissue blasted or burned away, and furthermore, Pompeii’s victims have been ash-encased.
This film reveals that the people that were left encased in ash at the moment of their deaths in Pompeii – sometimes in unusual poses – are believed to have been killed as they returned to the city to collect valuables. This was later in the day, at a time they believed that the volcano had sufficiently calmed down. But in reality it was only getting started.
Another eruption followed, and it’s pyroclastic events had grown in power, as compared to the first eruption. And scientists now believe the pyroclastic events ominously kept growing in power – as we now believe is the case in such eruptions – flushing their hottest gases even further afield towards Pompeii, as part of those pyroclastic flows and surges.
While the damage caused by the first eruption had vaporised the tissue of the residents found at the 5km closer Herculaneum, it just rained a shower of volcanic ash and debrion Pompeii. They are believed to have mainly made it to safety, but with a false sense of security.
Herculeum’s folks suffered death by 500°c gases, whereas the second pyroclastic flow brought 300°c gases to the streets of Pompeii, traveling at 40mph. An experiment in the film purports to prove how the tissue and clothes belonging to Pompeii’s tragic residents did not vaporise at 300°c.
Residents of both towns died instantly, but the difference in heat experienced at the moment of death for the two nearby settlements, explains the difference in the state of their remains.
Pompeii – The Mystery Of The Frozen People In Time, YESTERDAY (UK) – Broadcast 29 November 2016
MAIN TOP IMAGE: C.G. Newhall, USGS (Public Domain) – Pyroclastic flows descend the south-eastern flank of Mayon Volcano, Philippines, 23 September 1984. This deadly flow can incinerate all in its path on impact, particularly with its high temperature gases. The flow can be seen on the right side of the picture (look for the lowest plumes in this flow, down near the bottom of the mountain).
What are Pyroclastic Flows & Surges?
Pyroclastic flow – a fast-moving current of rock, fragments and hot gas, which typically occurs alongside each large volcano eruption. It prefers to hug the ground, and travels best downhill. It can have a higher proportion of rock and fragments than a surge, and less gas proportionally. Flows are often hotter than surges, as hot as 1000°c in some cases. Flows may give birth to some surges.
Pyroclastic surge – typically a less dense outpouring of liquidised fragments and gas, along with some water or steam on occasion, which occur ongoing throughout a volcano eruption, or series of eruptions. It has less debris than a flow – mainly just fragments and dust – with typically more gas. Surges can take many forms, including radiating rings, or waves that cling onto the front of flows. They may even occur as extra fast sandblasting ash showers. Unlike flows, surges have the ability to rise over obstacles, making them potentially more dangerous, because even large hills will not act as a natural barrier to their progress.