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News / Nation & World

New Pompeii finds highlight middle-class life in doomed city

By Associated Press
Published: August 6, 2022, 8:55pm
6 Photos
The director of the Pompeii archeological site, Gabriel Zuchtriegel, said Saturday that excavations of rooms in a home first unearthed in 2018 revealed the environment of ordinary citizens of the city, which was destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 79 A.D.
The director of the Pompeii archeological site, Gabriel Zuchtriegel, said Saturday that excavations of rooms in a home first unearthed in 2018 revealed the environment of ordinary citizens of the city, which was destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 79 A.D. (Photos by Parco Archeologico di Pompeii) Photo Gallery

ROME — A trunk with its lid left open. A wooden dishware closet, its shelves caved in. Three-legged accent tables topped by decorative bowls. These latest discoveries by archaeologists are enriching knowledge about middle-class lives in Pompeii before Mount Vesuvius’ furious eruption buried the ancient Roman city in volcanic debris.

Pompeii’s archaeological park, one of Italy’s top tourist attractions, announced the recent finds on Saturday. Its director, Gabriel Zuchtriegel, said the excavation of rooms in a “domus,” or home, first unearthed in 2018 had revealed precious details about the domestic environment of ordinary citizens of the city, which was destroyed in 79 A.D.

In past decades, excavation largely concentrated on sumptuous, elaborately frescoed villas of Pompeii’s upper-class residents. But archaeological activity in the sprawling site, near modern-day Naples, has increasingly focused on the lives of the middle class as well as of servants and other enslaved people.

“In the Roman empire, there was an ample chunk of the population that struggled with their social status and for whom ‘daily bread’ was anything but a given,” Zuchtriegel said. “A vulnerable class during political crises and food shortages, but also ambitious about climbing the social ladder.”

The finds unveiled Saturday include furnishings and household objects in the domus, which was dubbed the House of the Larario for an area of a home devoted to domestic spirits known as lares. The home has one in its courtyard.

Zuchtriegel noted that while the courtyard also had an exceptionally well-adorned cistern, “evidently, the (financial) resources weren’t enough to decorate the five rooms of the home.” One room, apparently used for storage, had unpainted walls and an earthen floor.

In a bedroom, archeologists found the remains of a bed frame with a trace of fabric from the pillow. The bed is identical to three cot-like beds unearthed last year in a tiny room in another residence that archaeologists believe doubled as a storeroom and sleeping quarters for a family of enslaved inhabitants of Pompeii.

The bedroom findings announced Saturday also included the remains of a wooden trunk with an open lid. Although the weight of beams and ceiling panels that crashed down in the wake of the volcanic explosion heavily damaged the trunk, among the objects found inside was an oil lamp decorated with a bas relief depicting the ancient Greek deity Zeus being transformed into an eagle. Nearby was a small, three-legged round table, similar to the accent tables in vogue today.

Exposing the storeroom revealed a wooden closet, its backboard still intact but the shelves caved in. Archaeologists believe the closet held cookware and dishes.

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