From the excavations of the villa of Civita Giuliana, in Pompeii, a new environment emerges in an exceptional state of conservation: the slave room. The excavation offers an extraordinary look at a part of the ancient world that normally remains in the dark, from which a very rare cross-section of the daily reality of slaves emerges. Thanks to the refinement of the technique of casts invented by Giuseppe Fiorelli in the nineteenth century, beds and other objects in perishable materials have been brought to light, which allow us to acquire new interesting data on the housing and living conditions of slaves in Pompeii and in the Roman world. .
«Pompeii is proof that when Italy believes in itself and works as a team, it achieves extraordinary goals admired all over the world. This incredible new discovery in Pompeii shows that today the archaeological site has become not only one of the most sought-after destinations in the world, but also a place where research is carried out and new technologies are experimented ». This was stated by the Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini, commenting on the new discovery announced today by the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, which took place in Civita Giuliana, the suburban villa north of Pompeii investigated since 2017 and which has already returned a ceremonial wagon and a stable with the remains of three horses.
«Thanks to this new important discovery, the knowledge of the daily life of the ancient Pompeians is enriched, in particular of that part of society still little known today. Pompeii is a unique model of study in the world », Franceschini observed.
The discovery took place not far from the portico of the villa where, in January 2021, a ceremonial chariot currently being restored was discovered. A few steps from there now emerges one of the modest lodgings of the employees who took care of the daily work in a Roman villa, including the maintenance and preparation of the cart. In the room, where three wooden cots were found, in fact, a wooden chest was found with metal and fabric objects that seem to be part of the horses’ harness. Furthermore, resting on one of the beds, a rudder of a wagon was found, of which a cast was made. The beds are made up of a few roughly worked wooden planks that could be assembled according to the height of those who used them. While two are about 1.70m long, one bed is just 1.40m so it could be a boy’s or a child’s. The network of beds is made up of ropes, whose footprints are partially legible in the ash, and above which they were placed covered with fabric, also preserved as cavities in the ground and returned through the method of casts. Under the cots there were a few personal items, including amphorae placed to store objects, ceramic jugs and the “chamber pot”.
The room was lit by a small window at the top and had no wall decorations. In addition to serving as a dormitory for a group of slaves, perhaps a small family as the child-sized cot would suggest, the environment served as a storage room, as evidenced by eight amphorae crammed into the corners left free for this purpose.
The excavation of the environment is part of an activity that the Archaeological Park of Pompeii is carrying out together with the Procura di Torre Annunziata, led by the Chief Prosecutor Nunzio Fragliasso. A few months ago, the renewal of a memorandum of understanding between the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Archaeological Park to combat the clandestine excavation activities in the Pompeian territory, which also involves the Campania Cultural Heritage Protection Unit and the Torre Annunziata Investigation Unit of the Arma dei Carabinieri. Subject of systematic looting for years, after an investigation by the prosecutor, the villa of Civita Giuliana has been the subject of stratigraphic excavations since 2017 which have returned a series of new data and discoveries to which the slave room is now added. Unfortunately, even in this environment, part of the archaeological heritage has been lost due to the tunnels dug by grave robbers who, throughout the villa, have created a total damage estimated at almost 2 million euros.
“It is a window into the precarious reality of people who rarely appear in historical sources, written almost exclusively by men belonging to the elite, and who therefore risk remaining invisible in great historical stories”, declares the Director General, Gabriel Zuchtriegel. «It is a case in which archeology helps us to discover a part of the ancient world that we know little about, but which is extremely important. What is striking is the narrowness and precariousness of which this environment speaks, a cross between dormitory and storage room of just 16 square meters, which we can now reconstruct thanks to the exceptional conservation conditions created by the eruption of 79 AD. most exciting discoveries in my life as an archaeologist, even without the presence of great ‘treasures’: the real treasure is human experience, in this case of the weakest of ancient society, of which this environment provides a unique testimony “, he underlines.
“Once again an excavation born from the need to protect and safeguard the archaeological heritage, in this case thanks to a fruitful collaboration with the Torre Annunziata prosecutor’s office, allows us to add a further piece to the knowledge of the ancient world”, declares Massimo Osanna , Director General of the Museums under whose direction excavation activities were started in the Archaeological Park of Pompeii in 2017. “The study of this environment, which will be enriched by the results of the analyzes in progress, will allow us to acquire new interesting data on the housing and living conditions of the slaves in Pompeii and in the Roman world,” he explains.
“The further significant discovery in the excavations of Civita Giuliana”, according to the Chief Prosecutor, Nunzio Fragliasso, “is yet another confirmation of the synergy between the Direction of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii and the Public Prosecutor of Torre Annunziata and the effectiveness of the protocol by agreement stipulated between the aforementioned Institutions, which, with the precious contribution of the Carabinieri, led, on the one hand, to the first degree condemnation of the authors of the illegal excavations of Civita Giuliana and, on the other, to the discovery of archaeological assets of exceptional importance. In implementation of the aforementioned protocol, the investigative and research activities will continue both at the excavations of Civita Giuliana and at other illegal archaeological excavation sites falling within the territory of Pompeii “.
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