Statuettes from Pompeii. Copyright: Pompeii Archaeological Sites

Pompeii discovery of nativity-style statuettes

Culture News

Terracotta statuettes have been discovered in the ruins of Pompeii, shedding light on pagan ritual traditions in the ancient Roman city.

Unearthed during recent excavations at the archaeological park in southern Italy, the thirteen figurines were found upright on a likely shelf in a home’s hallway.

Pompeii archaeologists, in a statement, highlighted that Christmas mangers were not part of the pagan Roman city’s tradition, eradicated by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD79. Instead, they believe the statuettes were used in pagan rituals based on their arrangement.

The ongoing excavation and restoration efforts in the domus, believed to belong to a wealthy merchant emphasising cultural sophistication through myth-inspired frescoes, revealed the ritualistic artifacts.

What do the statuettes depict?

The small sculptures, about 15 cm in height, were found upright on a horizontal plane, possibly a shelf. They emerged from the pumice at a height exceeding 2 meters above the floor. Some of the figurines appear to relate to the myth of Cybele and Attis, symbolising the life cycle of seasons and earth’s fertility, particularly linked to the spring equinox.

One of the Terracotta statuettes uncovered in Pompeii
One of the Terracotta statuettes uncovered in Pompeii

Additional figurines depict the head of a rooster, an almond, a walnut, and a pine cone. The hallway containing these artifacts also featured wall decorations.

The statuettes were found close to the House of Leda and the Swan, named after a sensual fresco depicting the Greek myth found in 2019.

Ongoing work focuses on rooms uncovered in the House of Leda and adjacent houses as part of the Great Pompeii Project. Excavations revealed a finely frescoed room with roundels featuring elegantly portrayed female faces.

The goal is to consolidate and stabilise the site’s edge, ensuring preservation and conservation in preparation for future public access.

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