ROME – It looks like a piece of rock -- black, shiny and unexceptional. But Italian anthropologists say the fragment is actually part of an exploded brain from an unfortunate victim of the volcanic eruption of Italy's Mount Vesuvius in 79. The discovery -- published on Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine -- is a rarity in archaeology, and researchers called it "sensational." Scholars who for years have studied the grisly remains of those trapped by ash, lava and toxic gasses when the volcano erupted in southern Italy were intrigued by a curious glassy material found inside one victim's skull in the ruins of Herculaneum, near Pompeii . "In October 2018, I was able to look at these remnants and I saw that something was shimmery in the shattered skull," Pier Paolo Petrone, one of the researchers, said.