ROME (AP) — A suitcase with the lid left open. A wooden china cabinet, whose shelves collapsed. Three-legged accent tables with decorative bowls on top. These latest discoveries by archaeologists enrich knowledge about middle-class life in Pompeii before the furious eruption of Vesuvius buried the ancient Roman city in volcanic rubble.
The archaeological park of Pompeii, 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 house, first excavated in 2018, had revealed precious details about the domestic environment of ordinary citizens of the city, which was destroyed in AD 79.
In recent decades, excavations have largely focused on lavish villas with elaborate frescoes of Pompeii’s upper-class inhabitants. But the archaeological activities at the sprawling site, near modern-day Naples, are increasingly focused on the life of the middle class, as well as servants and other enslaved people.
“In the Roman Empire, there was a large segment of the population who struggled with their social status and for whom ‘daily bread’ was anything but self-evident,” Zuchtriegel said. “A vulnerable class during political crises and food shortages, but also ambitious to climb the social ladder.”
The finds revealed on Saturday include furniture and household artifacts in the domus, which was dubbed the House of the Larario for an area of a house dedicated to house spirits known as lares. The house excavated in 2018 has one in the courtyard.
Zuchtriegel noted that although the courtyard also had an exceptionally well-decorated cistern, “the (financial) resources were apparently not enough to decorate the five rooms of the house”. One room had unpainted walls and an earthen floor that was apparently used for storage.
In one bedroom, archaeologists found the remains of a bed frame with a trail of dust from the pillow. The type of bed is identical to three cot-like beds unearthed last year in a small room in another residence that archaeologists say also served as storage space and sleeping quarters for a family of enslaved residents of Pompeii.
The bedroom finds, announced Saturday, also include the remains of a wooden suitcase with an open lid. Although the weight of the beams and ceiling panels that came crashing down in the wake of the volcanic explosion severely damaged the trunk, among the artifacts found inside was an oil lamp decorated with a bas-relief depicting the ancient Greek deity Zeus living in an eagle is transformed. Nearby was a small round table with three legs, similar to the accent tables in vogue today.
Uncovering the salvage, a wooden cabinet was revealed, the back of which was still intact, but the shelves collapsed. Archaeologists believe the cabinet had at least four panel doors and contained cooking utensils and dishes for the nearby kitchen. The excavators found a hinge from the housing.
Other artifacts found in the house include a large fragment of what was a translucent, rimmed plate in brilliant shades of cobalt blue and emerald, and a well-preserved incense burner in the shape of a crib.