New Pompeii Finds Highlight Middle-Class Life in the Doomed City

A trunk with the lid open. A wooden crockery cabinet, with sunken shelves. Decorative three-legged tables topped by decorative bowls. These latest discoveries by archaeologists are adding to knowledge about life for the middle class in Pompeii before the furious eruption of Mount Vesuvius buried the ancient Roman city in volcanic debris.

The Pompeii archaeological park, 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 home, first discovered in 2018, revealed precious details about the domestic environment of ordinary citizens of the city, which was destroyed in AD 79.

An image that shows the latest discoveries in the ancient city of Pompeii that is enriching the knowledge about the daily life of middle-class homes.

Pompeii Archaeological Park via Associated Press

In decades past, excavation largely concentrated on lavish, elaborately frescoed villas of Pompeii’s upper-class residents. But archaeological activity at the sprawling site, near present-day Naples, has increasingly focused on the lives of the middle class, as well as servants and other enslaved people.

“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 to climb the social ladder.”

Italy Pompeii Common People

Archaeologists work on the site of a new discovery.

Pompeii Archaeological Park via Associated Press

Finds revealed Saturday include furniture and household items in the domus, which was nicknamed the Casa del Larario after an area of ​​a house dedicated to domestic spirits known as lares. The house unearthed in 2018 has one in the yard.

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

In one bedroom, archaeologists found the remains of a bed frame with a trace of pillow fabric. The type of bed is identical to three cot-like beds unearthed last year in a small room in another residence that archaeologists believe doubled as a storeroom and bedroom for a family of enslaved Pompeians.

The bedroom findings announced Saturday also included the remains of a wooden chest with the lid open. Although the weight of the beams and ceiling panels that collapsed 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 transforming in an eagle. Nearby was a small round table with three legs, similar to the decorative tables that are in fashion today.

Italy Pompeii Middle class

An image provided by the Pompeii Archaeological Site Press Office, showing the latest discoveries in the ancient city of Pompeii.

Pompeii Archaeological Park via Associated Press

Exposing the storeroom revealed a wooden cabinet, its backboard still intact but the shelves collapsed. Archaeologists believe the cupboard had at least four panel doors and contained cooking utensils and dishes for the nearby kitchen. The excavators found a hinge of the enclosure.

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

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