New finds in Pompeii shed light on middle-class life in a doomed city

ROME (AP) — A chest with its lid left open. A wooden dish cupboard, its shelves collapsed. Three-legged side tables topped with decorative bowls. These latest findings from archaeologists add to knowledge about middle-class life in Pompeii before the furious eruption of Mount Vesuvius buried the ancient Roman city in volcanic debris.

The archaeological park of Pompeii, one of the main tourist attractions in Italy, announced the recent discoveries on Saturday. Its director, Gabriel Zuchtriegel, said the excavation of rooms in a “domus”, or house, first discovered in 2018 had revealed valuable details about the domestic environment of ordinary citizens in the city, which was destroyed. in 79 AD.

In recent decades, excavations have largely focused on lavish villas decorated with elaborate frescoes by Pompeii’s upper-class residents. But archaeological activity in the sprawling site, near modern Naples, has increasingly focused on the life of the middle class as well as servants and other slaves.

“In the Roman Empire, there was a large section 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 to climb the social ladder.”

Finds unveiled on Saturday include furniture and household objects in the domus, which has been dubbed the House of the Larario for an area of ​​a house devoted to household spirits known as lares. The house unearthed in 2018 has one in the yard.

Zuchtriegel noted that while the courtyard also had an exceptionally ornate cistern, “obviously the (financial) resources were not sufficient to decorate the five rooms of the house”. One room had unpainted walls and a dirt floor apparently used for storage.

In one bedroom, archaeologists found the remains of a bed frame with a trace of fabric from the pillow. The type of bed is identical to three crib-like beds discovered last year in a small room in another residence that archaeologists say served as a storage room and sleeping quarters for a family of enslaved residents of Pompeii.

Chamber finds announced on Saturday also included the remains of a wooden chest with an open lid. Although the weight of beams and ceiling panels that crashed in the wake of the volcanic explosion severely damaged the chest, among the items found inside was an oil lamp decorated with a bas-relief depicting the ancient Greek deity Zeus transformed into an eagle. Nearby was a small round three-legged table, similar to the side tables in vogue today.

The storage room exposure revealed a wooden cupboard, its back panel still intact but the shelves had collapsed. Archaeologists believe the cupboard had at least four paneled doors and contained cooking utensils and crockery for the adjoining kitchen. The excavators found a hinge of the enclosure.

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

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