Pompeii tortoise with egg uncovered during dig

Pompeii: The discovery of a 2,000-year-old tortoise and its egg

By Region Culture News Southern Italy

Archaeologists unearth the remains of a land tortoise with its fragile egg kept in its carapace in a shop in via dell’Abbondanza, Pompeii.

The remains of a pregnant tortoise, its egg still within its body, was uncovered in Pompeii. It is a testimony of the vast ecosystem of Pompeii, composed of natural and not only anthropogenic traces. It is also precious archaeological evidence of the last phase of the city’s life, after a violent earthquake in 62 AD and before the fateful eruption of 79 AD.

The unusual discovery took place, as part of an excavation and research campaign on the Stabian baths, conducted by the Freie Universität Berlin and the University of Naples L’Orientale, with the University of Oxford. In collaboration with the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, the aim is to investigate the urban development of the residential area before the establishment of the thermal baths.

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In particular, this year the remains of a sumptuous domus with refined mosaics and wall paintings, dating back to the first century B.C. was discovered. It had been razed to the ground after the earthquake that devastated Pompeii and large parts of Campania in 62 AD. Subsequently, the area was used for the expansion of the spa complex on the intersection of via dell Abbondanza and via Stabiana.

Mosaic between culture and nature

The director of the Pompeii archaeological park, Gabriel Zuchtriegel, said the fact that the animal still had her egg suggested she died before finding a safe, hospitable place to lay it.

“This lets us reflect on Pompeii in this phase after the earthquake but before the eruption, when many homes were being rebuilt, the whole city was a construction site, and evidently some spaces were so unused that wild animals could roam, enter and try to lay their eggs,” he said.

The discovery of the tortoise adds to “this mosaic of relations between culture and nature, community and environment that represents the history of ancient Pompeii”, he said.

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