If an apocalyptic event unfolds right before your eyes and there’s nothing you can do but embrace your own demise, what would be your last actions or words? How would you face desolation and the last few minutes of your life? Well, this ancient Pompeii man didn’t waste his time thinking about it as Mount Vesuvius wreaked havoc during its infamous eruption in AD 79. Instead, he went straight down to do his business and was preserved in that position for more than a millennium. But joking aside, is there actually a scientific explanation to the Pompeii victim sensation?
Masturbating man, Pompeii, 79 CE pic.twitter.com/EPA2b17Vmd
— Persian Rose (@PersianRose1) July 2, 2017
What on earth was he doing?
As the image of the Pompeii victim went viral on social media, many shared their speculation on what the ancient man was doing just before he died. From the photo, the man is seen lying on his back with his right hand placed on his genital area. While most people are not aware what the Pompeii victim was actually doing, the most obvious scenario was certainly exploited and sparked a trend on Twitter, with many of the tweets blatantly going for the punch lines.
Thanks to the way the lava encased everyone in Pompeii the masturbating man will be forever rock hard
— Tolvie (@MxTolvo) July 3, 2017
He “erupted” during the eruption! 😂😂 https://t.co/gD0XYYkY4w
— Elite Readers (@elitereaders) July 4, 2017
This man saw his entire world crumbling to fire and ash and decided to crank one out before facing eternity. Legend. https://t.co/KSBhPXfVOB
— Andre (@andredoesthings) July 2, 2017
“Vidi, vici, veni”
“I saw, I conquered, I came.” 🍆 https://t.co/Ai8BDKf1Zq
— Thomas Rimmer (@ThomasRimmerNZ) July 2, 2017
The image was originally posted by the Pompeii Archaeological Park via Instagram.
Did the Pompeii victim actually die the way social media think he did?
Although it’s easy to assume that the Pompeii victim died mid-pleasure, an expert came out to smash the social media theory.
“There is no way to demonstrate any ‘masturbating man,’ and it is out of place to discuss such an affirmation (I hope a joke, however bad) of some young time waster”, said volcanologist Dr. Pier Paolo Petrone.
“The individual in the photo is an adult man, killed by the hot pyroclastic surge (hot gas and ash cloud which killed most of the population living around Mount Vesuvius), with both arms and legs flexed due to the heat”, he added.
Dr. Petrone authored a number of studies regarding how the population of Pompeii was wiped out during the catastrophic eruption of the notorious volcano. The eruption of Mount Vesuvius was said to have released thermal energy a hundred thousand times more powerful than that of the Hiroshima-Nagasaki atomic bombings. Petrone also suggests that the current body positions of most of the human victims in the area were acquired post-mortem and not at the time of death.
“Most of the human victims found in Pompeii often show ‘strange’ position of arms and legs, due to the contraction of limbs as a consequence of the heat effect on their bodies after the death occurred”.
In a more recent study, Petrone’s findings seem to corroborate with the intense and unbearable heat produced by the catastrophic eruption.
“Such thermal shock induced an instantaneous muscular stiffening– known as cadaveric spasm– which caused the victims to be frozen in their postures at the time of the impact with the hot ash surge”.
When victims die of cadaveric shock, their bodies are unable to relax after death thus explaining why the Pompeii victim maintained his posture.