New Pompeii Finds Shed Light on Life of Middle-Class Romans

Italian archeologists have unearthed four new rooms in the House of the Lararium in Pompeii filled with various everyday household objects, such as amphorae, waxed tablets, and a precious decorated incense burner.

A bedroom in the House of the Lararium in Pompeii, Italy. Image credit: Parco Archeologico di Pompei / Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Cultural Activities and Tourism.

A bedroom in the House of the Lararium in Pompeii, Italy. Image credit: Parco Archeologico di Pompei / Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Cultural Activities and Tourism.

“Pompeii is an ongoing discovery that continues to inspire awe, and not only from a romantic point of view, which undoubtedly marks the interest not only of scholars, but also, above all, for its unique quality of being an inexhaustible laboratory of study and learning, which allows research to never cease, and for new hypotheses and reasoning to be advanced,” said Dr. Massimo Osanna, director general of all Italian museums, in a statement.

“Pompeii truly never ceases to amaze, and is a wonderful tale of redemption, proof that when in Italy we work as a team, and invest in young people, in research and innovation, extraordinary results can be achieved,” said Dario Franceschini, the Italian Minister of Culture.

In one of the newly-discovered rooms in the House of the Lararium, the archaeologists found the remains of seven waxed tablets.

“A truly unique find, it has allowed us to create the first example of a cast which allows a perfect yield of both volume and detail,” they explained.

“It is a group of seven triptychs, tied together by a small cord both horizontally and vertically.”

“The polyptych had probably been stored on a shelf, together with other ceramic and bronze objects.”

A terracotta incense burner found in the House of the Lararium in Pompeii, Italy. Image credit: Parco Archeologico di Pompei / Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Cultural Activities and Tourism.

A terracotta incense burner found in the House of the Lararium in Pompeii, Italy. Image credit: Parco Archeologico di Pompei / Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Cultural Activities and Tourism.

The researchers also discovered a collapsed cupboard with well-preserved vessels for everyday use, some of which were made of sigillata (Roman fine table ceramic) and glass.

“Alongside this was a set of bronze vessels, among which a well-preserved pelvis (bowl) with a beaded base and handles with palmette attachments particularly stands out,” they said.

“There also were two bronze jugs, one of which features a handle with a sphinx-shaped attachment above and a lion’s head attachment below.”

“In addition to these metallic vessels, an incense burner in the shape of a cradle was discovered in excellent condition, with the polychrome pictorial decoration perfectly preserved, still revealing details such as the lips, beard and hair of the male subject, and geometric decoration on the exterior.”

In a bedroom, the archaeologists the remains of a bed with a trace of fabric from the pillow.

“The type of bed was identical to that of three beds discovered last year in the ‘Room of the Slaves’,” they said.

“Alongside it was a bipartite wooden chest, left open at the moment when the owners fled, and onto which beams and planks from the ceiling above collapsed. It held a small sigillata plate and a double-spouted lantern with a bas-relief depiction of the transformation of Zeus into an eagle.”

“Next to it was a small, circular three-footed table, upon which was a ceramic cup containing two glass ampoules, a small sigillata plate and another small glass plate.”

“At the foot of the table, a glass ampoule as well as small jugs and amphorae testify to the everyday use of the room.”

Near a storage room or a warehouse, the scientists found a wooden cabinet with at least four doors.

“The upper part of the piece, and the front doors, were compromised by the collapse of the ceiling above, with tiles, flooring and plaster which destroyed the upper levels, although their outlines can be perceived on the rear wall,” they said.

According to the team, the piece of furniture was about 2 m (6.6 feet) high, with at least five shelves. The uppermost contained small jugs and amphorae as well as glass plates.

“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,” Dr. Osanna said.

“It was a social class that was vulnerable during political crises and famines, but also ambitious to climb the social ladder.”

“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.”

“In the other rooms, two on the upper floor which could be reached by a mezzanine, we discovered an array of objects, some of which are made of precious materials such as bronze and glass, while others were for everyday use.”

“The wooden furniture, of which it has been possible to make casts, was extremely simple.”

“We do not know who the inhabitants of the house were, but certainly the culture of otium (leisure) which inspired the wonderful decoration of the courtyard represented for them more a future they dreamed of than a lived reality.”

Source: sci-news.com

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