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Pompeii masturbating manpompeii_parco_archeologico

This 2,000-year-old 'masturbating' Pompeii man is going viral

Tomasz Frymorgen

Have you ever wondered what you’d do if the world was ending and you had minutes to live?

Well, this guy appears to have one suggestion.

This is the pose that our hero has lain in for about 2,000 years, after being killed by an eruption - of Mount Vesuvius, that is...

He was an inhabitant of Pompeii – the ancient Roman city that was destroyed by a volcanic explosion in 79 AD.

Two millennia later, he is finding internet fame.

But, as Twitter goes into meltdown, science has to ask, ‘Did this guy really die masturbating?’

Probably not.

Of the 1,150 bodies recovered by archaeologists at Pompeii, 394 were killed by falling pumice and the debris of collapsing buildings.

The remaining 756 victims were killed by a pyroclastic surge – a column of superheated gas and ash released from a volcano, which travels at hundreds of miles per hour.

It's highly unlikely that our protagonist actually died midway through some action.

Mount VesuviusiStock

The gas and ash may have caused asphyxiation. Or it may have killed Pompeii’s residents with a thermal shock that rapidly cooked their bodies. This causes instant muscle stiffening, known as cadaveric shock - which would explain the apparent grasping poses seen in many of Pompeii’s victims.

“The individual in the photo is an adult man, killed by the hot pyroclastic surge, with both arms and legs flexed due to the heat,” says Dr Petrone, a volcanologist who’s been studying the Vesuvius victims for 25 years.

“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 death occurred,” he told The Daily Dot.

Whatever the science, and whatever the cause of death, it’s probably fair to say that our man never saw it coming.

Originally published 4 July 2017.