View Full Version : One million skulls

In London, there's an exibition of 900,000 red flowers for the fallen British soldiers of world war 1. That's a huge area covered by them, and 900,000 is an unbelievably big number. But to visualize the amount of dead, it's rather abstract, and that got me thinking.

What would it look like to have a huge pile of one million skulls? And the British didn't even suffer the worst part, what about 16 million?

factotum

2014-11-09, 12:32 PM

At a very rough estimate, an intact human skull occupies about 3 litres of volume (the brain itself is about 1.5l), so 16 million of them would be 48 million litres--that's a volume of 48,000 cubic metres, which is a cube 36 metres on a side or a sphere of diameter 45m. Obviously this isn't taking into account how well (or not) human skulls tesselate, or that the skulls at the bottom of the pile are going to get crushed into powder by the thousands of tonnes of skulls on top of them.

A million skulls would be 3,000 cubic metres, which would make the cube a smidgeon less than 15m on a side.

To give some context to this, the internal volume of the Elizabeth Tower (more commonly known as Big Ben) is 4,650 cubic metres, according to Wikipedia, so the one million skulls would fill it up to the bottom of the clock face. You'd need ten towers that size to hold the 16 million skulls.

Spiryt

2014-11-09, 01:08 PM

Well, this place (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skull_Chapel,_Czermna) apparently holds 2-3 thousands of skulls and other remaints in it's rather small surface.

With more than 20 thousands more in the cellar.

Phew... I think even that's already too big for me to imagine.

Given those volume estimates, another approximation would be a football field stacked to the height of two city busses.

If you spread it out over a whole olympic sport stadium, it would probably still be about 4 meters deep.

Or it would fill 1,800 standard shipping containers. That would be enough to reach the maximum capacity of a container ship like this.

http://www.schiffsspotter.de/Bilder/Motorschiffe/Frachter/Containerschiffe/Kristin%20Schepers/1061100.jpg

That's just massive...

Eldan

2014-11-09, 03:04 PM

Well, there is something a bit similar..

http://i.imgur.com/2bfTl.jpg

http://i209.photobucket.com/albums/bb316/championhilz/SeattleTimes.jpg

Pyramid of German helmets in Times Square after the end of WWI.

-Sentinel-

2014-11-11, 10:23 PM

The Paris catacombs are quite a sight to behold: entire walls of skulls and femurs for two kilometers - and that's only the part you're allowed to visit, which is a fraction of the entire length. All told, around 6-7 million bodies, equivalent to the lower (credible) estimates of the Holocaust. The waiting line to enter is several hours long, but it's well worth it, IMO, if you ever go to Paris.

Like this... for two kilometers.

http://travelbetweenthepages.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/paris20catacombs.jpg

https://mysendoff.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Catacombs-paris.jpg

The Glyphstone

2014-11-12, 02:39 AM

Or for another measure, one human skull averages (very) roughly 9 inches long. If you lined them all up end to end, or stacked them on top of each other, you would have a tower of skulls 2,273.73 miles long, or just shy of the continental United States from east to west.

Septimus Faber

2014-11-12, 02:47 AM

Or for another measure, one human skull averages (very) roughly 9 inches long. If you lined them all up end to end, or stacked them on top of each other, you would have a tower of skulls 2,273.73 miles long, or just shy of the continental United States from east to west.

You would also have way too much time on your hands. :smallbiggrin:

The Glyphstone

2014-11-12, 02:58 AM

You would also have way too much time on your hands. :smallbiggrin:

And/or a very large number of police officers interested in talking to you.:smallbiggrin:

Bulldog Psion

2014-11-14, 11:04 AM

For my estimate, I'm trying to figure out how much area would be covered by them. I'm arbitrarily assigning an 8"x6" ground area to each skull. This gives me 533,333 square feet of skulls. Applying the square root function to this ghastly figure yields 2,309.4 ...

Or in other words, 16 million skulls would cover a square area of ground 2,309 feet on a side (about 700 meters for those who use metrics).

Okay, that was a depressing way to spend part of a sunny morning. :smallfrown:

Slipperychicken

2014-11-18, 07:51 PM

For my estimate, I'm trying to figure out how much area would be covered by them. I'm arbitrarily assigning an 8"x6" ground area to each skull. This gives me 533,333 square feet of skulls. Applying the square root function to this ghastly figure yields 2,309.4 ...

Or in other words, 16 million skulls would cover a square area of ground 2,309 feet on a side (about 700 meters for those who use metrics).

Okay, that was a depressing way to spend part of a sunny morning. :smallfrown:

Even if it took you 5 seconds on average to place each skull (presuming you're somehow efficiently moving the remaining ones with you as you place them), it would take about a year and a half (48 million seconds) of labor to place them all.

Since people need rest: if you were taking 8 hours every day to place these skulls at a rate of one skull per 5 seconds, it would take you about 7.62 years to do.

To get it done in one day of continuous work, you'd need to be placing at a rate of about 200 skulls per second.

factotum

2014-11-19, 03:29 AM

What we really need to know is what the angle of repose of a pile of skulls is, so we can work out how big the pyramid would be if you just piled them all in one place (and none of them got crushed)...

For my estimate, I'm trying to figure out how much area would be covered by them. I'm arbitrarily assigning an 8"x6" ground area to each skull. This gives me 533,333 square feet of skulls. Applying the square root function to this ghastly figure yields 2,309.4 ...

Or in other words, 16 million skulls would cover a square area of ground 2,309 feet on a side (about 700 meters for those who use metrics).

Okay, that was a depressing way to spend part of a sunny morning. :smallfrown:

And I used skulls as an abstraction. The pile of corpses would be unimaginable. Since the western front basically didn't move at all and the killing zone was narrow, there must have been a whole logistic branch dedicated to keeping the area relatively corpse clear. It would have been imposible to burry them all nearby.

And then we later get to the sequel, which had to outdo part one in every imaginable way. :smalleek:

Eldan

2014-11-19, 07:53 AM

Hmm. Back of the envelope with made up numbers... a human is 2 meters by 50 cm by 25 cm or 0.25 cubic meters. Almost certainly an overestimate, we aren't boxes. More realistically, it's probably about a third.

1 million dead humans take up 250000 cubic meters. That's almost exactly the great pyramid of Giza.

Almost 63 meters on a side, if arranged in a cube.

If we instead lay them out on a field... pretty much a square kilometer.

Edit: So Wolfram says it's 0.06 cubic meters, not 0.25. A quarter less, then.

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