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Black ‘rock’ from 79 AD Italy eruption is part of exploded brain

What: According to Italian anthropologists, the piece, which appears to be a black, polished rock, is a piece of an exploded brain from a tragic victim of Italy's Mount Vesuvius' volcanic eruption in AD 79. The city of Herculaneum and everything inside it was covered in molten lava that was 16 metres thick. The curator of the College of the Augustales is thought to have been the guy at the centre of the discovery. According to researchers, the eruption's hot gases caused temperatures to surge to 520 degrees Celsius which is hot enough to cause human fat to ignite and vaporise sensitive tissues.

Researchers from the University of Naples Federico II and Cambridge University worked along with the director of Herculaneum, CEINGE in Naples, to make the revelation. Additional testing revealed that it did indeed include small fragments of proteins and fatty acids from hair and brain tissue.

When: The discovery was published on 23 January 2020.

What’s next: Based on the DNA of the victims, researchers exploring the Herculaneum archaeological site have already been able to identify family links between them. Now the researcher’s next step is to find the individual’s DNA by reheating and liquefying the material.