An excavation at the back of the ‘enchanted garden’ uncovers a middle-class home with a cupboard unopened for 2,000 years. The latest Pompeii discovery reveals more about daily life in the ancient city.
In Pompeii they are excavating at the back of the ‘enchanted garden’ in Regio V, the astonishing painted area featuring a big lararium shrine that came to light in 2018. Where one would have expected to find a big, lavish house, what has emerged are modest-but-dignified rooms. However, there are some refined objects and even a folder of documents that a plaster cast has remarkably made reappear.
In one room there is a cupboard that had stayed unopened for 2,000 years. Inside were dishware, glass plates, ceramic bowls and vases. Another room showed a table still decorated with ornaments, a bed and a chest.
The archaeological park’s director, Gabriel Zuchtriegel, says the areas tell the story of the life of the city’s lower-middle class. “These people often lived in rented homes and were on the margins of the wealthier classes,” he said.
In contrast with the refined painting of the lararium, the walls of these rooms are plastered but bare, with no trace of any paint. The clay floor is bare too.
“This discovery was a surprise, but this is exactly why it is important to keep excavating,” commented Massimo Osanna, the Culture Ministry’s Museums Director General who was the head of the park and the chief of the excavation project in 2018.
“Pompeii never stops amazing us and the research that is being done is precious because it helps us shed light on its history” Zuchtriegel said.
On the ground floor, which was partially crushed by the collapse of the ceiling, there is a cupboard. It had been closed for nearly 2,000 years. Inside are plates, glass objects and dishware that archaeologists will remove in a micro-excavation.
Casting technique in Pompeii
The archaeologists have reverted to the technique of using casts to shine a new spotlight on the affairs of the city. The plaster has brought back the furniture and the chest for the precious things packed in a rush.
Then there is a pillow that had been left on the bed, fallen beams on the furniture, an upstairs room, a pack of tablets, perhaps contracts, held together by string and sealed with wax, as was the practice of the day.
“This cast is unique for Pompeii,” the director pointed out.
The dig is ongoing, but Zuchtriegel said the intention is it work on a project to make the rooms safe so they can be opened up to visitors.