New Pompeii finds highlight middle-class life in doomed city

Written by Javed Iqbal

ROOM (AP) — A trunk with the lid open. A wooden plate cabinet, its shelves recessed. Three-legged accent tables topped by decorative bowls. These latest discoveries by archaeologists enrich knowledge of middle-class life in Pompeii before the furious eruption of Mount Vesuvius buried the ancient Roman city in volcanic debris.

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

In recent decades, excavation has largely concentrated on lavish, elaborate frescoes by Pompeii’s upper-class residents. But archaeological activity in the sprawling area, near present-day Naples, has increasingly focused on the lives of the middle class as well as servants and other slaves.

“In the Roman Empire, there was a large part of the population who 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 on Saturday, include furniture and household items in the domus, which was dubbed the House of Lararios for an area of ​​a home devoted to household spirits known as lares. The dwelling excavated in 2018 has one in the yard.

Zuchtriegel noted that although the farm also had an unusually well-decorated cistern, “the (financial) resources were obviously not enough to decorate the five rooms of the home.” One room had unpainted walls and a dirt floor that was apparently used for storage.

In one bedroom, archaeologists 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 dwelling that archaeologists believe doubled as a storage room and sleeping quarters for a family of enslaved Pompeii residents.

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

Uncovering the storage room revealed a wooden cabinet, its back panel still intact but the shelves falling in. Archaeologists believe the cupboard had at least four paneled doors and held cookware and plates for the nearby kitchen. The excavators found a hinge from the enclosure.

Other items found in the house include a large fragment of what had been a translucent, angular plate in brilliant shades of cobalt blue and emerald, and a well-preserved incense burner shaped like a cradle.

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Javed Iqbal

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