Even after centuries of excavations and book-loads of research, Pompeii is still only just letting go of its secrets. Last week, archaeologists working in the famous ruined Roman city revealed the discovery of a gorgeously colorful and remarkably well-preserved collection of frescoes in a lararium, a Roman garden used to honor spirits.
The ancient paintings, which form a courtyard about 4 meters by 5 meters (13 by 16 feet), depicts two curly serpents, used to represent spirits, in front of an altar with a pinecone and eggs perched on top. It’s believed these objects were offerings to the spirits to ensure prosperity and good luck for the owners of the household (a small altar was also found in the garden). Elsewhere on the same wall, around about the height of a flower bed, are paintings of a peacock, flying birds, and other leafy patterns.
On the opposite wall, there’s another vividly-colored hunting scene of several light-colored animals prancing towards a wild boar, which the researchers believe could “allude to the victory of the forces of good over evil.”
Director of the Archaeological Park, Massimo Osanna, described the discovery as “ marvelous and enigmatic room,” speaking to ANSA, an Italian news agency.
Pompeii is most famous for its iconic “frozen figures” that perished in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE. The ancient Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum, along with around 10,000 of their inhabitants, were obliterated by a thick shower of hot cinders, lumps of pumice, and pieces of rock from the volcano, in what was one of most catastrophic volcanic eruptions in human history.
It’s less well-known that the frozen figures are not actually mummified remains, but the casts of people created by pouring plaster into the hollows formed in the volcanic ash where the bodies had eventually disintegrated.
The latest discovery came to light thanks to a massive EU-funded restoration and excavation program called the “Great Pompeii Project”. So far, the project has helped to restore much of the ruins and unearth a treasure trove of new discoveries, including balcony-adorned houses still with their terracotta amphorae, and other colorful frescoes. In one of their more remarkable discoveries, archaeologists discovered the remains of an ancient horse cast in the volcanic ash.
As the discovery of this painted lararium shows, the archaeologists on the project certainly aren’t running out of work.