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Archaeologists discover rare ‘slave room’ in Pompeii

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a room at a Roman villa in Pompeii, which was used by slaves who worked in the villa. This tiny room has three beds, a chamber pot, and a wooden chest containing metal and fabric objects.

Archaeologists discover rare ‘slave room’ in Pompeii
Archaeologists discover rare ‘slave room’ in Pompeii—–

Discoveries continue to be made at Civita Giuliana, in the suburban villa to the north of Pompeii which has been studied since 2017, and this rare discovery offers a glimpse into a part of the interesting ancient world that usually remains in the dark.

The room also gives some insight into the reality of slaves. And according to a statement, this is thanks to the “exceptional state of preservation of the room and the possibility of creating plaster casts of beds and other objects in perishable materials which have left their imprint in the cinerite that covered the ancient structures.”

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So let’s unpack this discovery:

The beds are made of several roughly worked wooden planks which could be adjusted according to the height of whoever used them. Two of these are around 1.7 metres long, one bed measures 1.4 metres, suggesting that it could have belonged to a young man or child.

Several personal objects were discovered, nestled under the beds, including ceramic jugs and a ‘chamber pot’. The room was lit by a small upper window, and shows no evidence of having had any wall decorations, the statement explains.

The room could have also been used for storage purposes, which is evident by the eight amphorae crammed into the corners.

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“This is a window into the precarious reality of people who seldom appear in historical sources that were written almost exclusively by men belonging to the elite, and who as a result risk remaining invisible in the great historical accounts,” Director General Gabriel Zuchtriegel said.

“It is a case in which archaeology helps us to discover a part of the ancient world which we would otherwise know little about, but which is nonetheless extremely important. What is most striking is the cramped and precarious nature of this room, which was something between a dormitory and a storage room of just 16 sqm, which we can now reconstruct thanks to the exceptional state of preservation created by the eruption of AD 79,” he adds.

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In the same vein, Massimo Osanna, Director General of Museums, said: “The study of this room, which will be enriched by the results of ongoing analyses, will allow us to uncover new and interesting information on the living conditions and lives of slaves at Pompeii and in the Roman world”.

 

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