A team of scientists found a surprising survivor from the Mount Vesuvius eruption that buried the ancient city Pompeii in the year 79 A.D.
In Herculaneum, a city that was also buried under the eruption, scientists found one victim’s skull that had heated and cooled so quickly that his brain turned to a black glass, Ars Technica reports.
Now, after further analysis, the scientists found that even individual brain cells were preserved, like critters trapped in ancient amber.
It’s a remarkable discovery — especially since brains tend to rapidly decompose after death.
The skeleton of a man killed when Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79 was discovered in the 1960s.
But it was only recently that a forensic anthropologist made another startling discovery: “incredibly well-preserved” brain cells in the man’s skull.
Paolo Petrone was working around the skull in 2018 in Italy when he spotted “some glassy material shining from within the skull,” CNN reports.
“The brain exposed to the hot volcanic ash must first have liquefied and then immediately turned into a glassy material by the rapid cooling of the volcanic ash deposit,” he said, causing the shiny appearance.
Based on charred wood left near the skeleton, a volcanologist figures the temperature reached more than 500 degrees after the volcano erupted, burying the city of Herculaneum.
The preservation of the brain cells is “totally unprecedented,” the volcanologist said.