Among the ruins of Pompeii, another clue into the daily lives of its unfortunate citizens has been unlocked thanks to archaeologists from the Pompeii Archeological Site. The findings were from excavations of small furnished rooms that were originally buried and squished by the volcanic ash during the famous volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE. The rooms and items found showcase snippets of the lives of the lower and middle class.
In the northern location of Pompeii was the Regio V area, which was one of the largest districts in this ancient city. In 2018, this location was the target of many excavations, as a project aimed to maintain and stabilize excavation fronts along the city's perimeter. This section uncovered a beautifully decorated lararium (a shrine to the guardian spirits of the Roman household) with a depiction of an enchanted garden.
In 2021, the Archeological Park of Pompeii expanded the investigation to the surrounding rooms of a Domus (a home), thought to represent the middle class as well as servants and enslaved people.
“In the Roman Empire there was a significant proportion of the population which fought for their social status and for whom the ‘daily bread’ was anything but taken for granted. It was a social class that was vulnerable during political crises and famines, but also ambitious to climb the social ladder.” Massimo Osanna, Director General of Museums, said in a statement.
The findings revealed exciting items used by the average citizen. Archeologists uncovered four rooms with a variety of furnishings that the team was able to make casts from, along with everyday objects. In Pompeii, casts can often be made from voids in the cinerite (rock made from volcanic ash). The teams pour plaster into the voids, that when solidified can recreate the shapes of the objects.
“In the House of the Lararium at Pompeii, the owner was able to embellish the courtyard with the lararium and the basin for the cistern with exceptional paintings, yet evidently funds were insufficient to decorate the five rooms of the house, one of which was used for storage.” Osanna Said.
One room was a bedroom, featuring a bed. Its frame, the volume of the pillow, and the texture of the fabric were visible. Next to the bed was a wooden chest that must have been left open when the owners fled. In this chest there was a double-spouted lantern that had a bas-relief depiction of Zeus transforming into an eagle, there was also a small sigillata plate (a type of Roman fine table ceramic).
This room was similar to a modern-day room, and also featured a bedside table that was small and circular. This table featured a small glass plate, a small ceramic cup with two glass ampoules (a small sealed vial), and a small sigillata plate. There were also other everyday objects found at the base of this table, including a small jug and amphorae (a two-handled vessel).
There was also a storage room, which was not as decorated as other rooms – it did not have plastered walls and the walls were simple beaten earth.
Outside this room, in the southern corner of a small hallway, was a wooden cabinet preserved in the cinerite. This cabinet was around 2 meters (6.6 feet) high, with at least 4 doors and five shelves. The highest shelves had small jugs, glass plates, and amphorae. There is currently ongoing excavation for the lower shelf levels.
Rooms on the upper floor
In the rooms on the upper floors, the team was able to produce casts of waxed tablets. In it was a group of seven triptychs (a painting made up of three sections), that were tied together by a cord, both vertically and horizontally. It is thought that this was stored on a shelf with other objects.
What was also exciting was a presence of an incense burner in the shape of a cradle. This was in fantastic condition, and there was a male subject on the edge with a visible beard, hair, and lips.
Room behind the house of lararium
Along with all these exciting finds, there was also a room uncovered behind the Lararium. The plaster cast method revealed detailed latchwork that was present on the collapsed false ceiling. Also, boiserie (decorative wall markings) were found on all walls along the north, east, and south of the walls.
“Pompeii is an ongoing discovery that continues to inspire awe” Osanna said.