A Treasure Chest Full Of Sorcery Charms Has Been Found In Pompeii


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

clockAug 13 2019, 12:33 UTC

Goodluck charms, penis-shaped amulets, and buttons made of bones are just some of the relics recently discovered in a “sorcerer’s treasure trove” by archaeologists in Pompeii.

Researchers at the Archaeological Park of Pompeii discovered the stunning array of objects in the ruins of a house known as the “House of the Garden,” where they also discovered the skeletons of 10 people who perished in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE.


The artifacts were once placed in a wooden box that has since decomposed, leaving behind just a couple of bronze hinges. Inside were two mirrors, pieces of necklace, decorative elements made of glazed ceramic, bronze, bone and amber, phallic amulets, a human figurine, various gems, an engraved the head of the Roma god Dionysus, and an amethyst carved female figure.

Archaeological Park of Pompeii 

But who would own such an odd collection of objects? Remarkably, these were not the showy possessions of a member of the upper-class elite. The nature of the objects suggests they belonged to a woman, perhaps a servant or a slave, who used them in rituals for fertility and protection against bad luck.

This is especially exciting because ancient history is often pieced together from objects that belonged to the “rich and famous,” such as fine artworks or grand houses, and don't necessarily reflect the lives of most people in that society. Conversely, these newly unearthed objects shed some much-needed light onto the everyday experience of an ordinary woman whose life might not be as well represented in the archaeological record. 


"They are objects of everyday life in the female world and are extraordinary because they tell micro-stories, biographies of the inhabitants of the city who tried to escape the eruption," Massimo Osanna, General Director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, said in a statement. "In the same house, we discovered a room with ten victims, including women and children, and now we are trying to establish kinship relationships, thanks to DNA analysis."

Archaeological Park of Pompeii 

“Perhaps the precious box belonged to one of these victims. Interesting is the iconography of objects and amulets, which invoke fortune, fertility, and protection against bad luck," he added. "And the numerous pendants in the shape of a small phallus, or the ear, the closed fist, the skull, the figure of Harpocrates, the scarabs. Symbols and iconographies that are now being studied to understand their meaning and function."

Pompeii and the neighboring village of Herculaneum hold a surprisingly rich collection of objects that chronicle the everyday life of ancient Romans. This is, in part, because many of those who perished in the infamous volcanic eruption were either too poor or physically unable to escape. Their bodies, homes, and prized possessions thereby became preserved under a cloak of hot volcanic ash. 


Since 2018, there have been new archaeological excavations going on at Pompeii for the first time in decades, revealing a cornucopia of new discoveries, including the remains of a horse and a collection of erotic fresco paintings.

  • tag
  • fertility,

  • treasure,

  • history,

  • ritual,

  • Roman,

  • ancient history,

  • Ancient Rome,

  • Pompeii,

  • sorcery