(by Silvia Lambertucci) (ANSA) – POMPEII, AUG 6 – In one room there is a cupboard that had remained unopened for 2,000 years, complete with dishes still inside; glass plates, ceramic bowls and vases.
In another there is a table still holding its ornaments, a bed and a chest.
In Pompeii they are excavating at the back of the ‘enchanted garden’, the astonishing painted area featuring a big lararium shrine that was brought to light in 2018.
And, surprisingly, where one would have expected to find a big, lavish house, what has emerged are modest-but-dignified rooms, where there are some refined objects and even a folder of documents that a plaster cast has remarkably made reappear.
These areas tell the story of the life of the city’s lower-middle class, explained the archaeological park’s Director Gabriel Zuchtriegel.
“These people often lived in rented homes and were on the margins of the wealthier classes,” he said.
Zuchtriege said that this situation was common in the Campania city, which had become a Roman colony in 80BC.
“It was a situation that concerned most of the population and, nevertheless, up to now it is little documented and discussed,” he said.
In contrast with the wonderful exterior with its large, sinuous snakes and ferocious beats that look so good in the refined painting of the lararium, the walls of these rooms – which ANSA has seen thanks to a sneak preview – are plastered but bare, with no trace of any paint.
The clay floor is bare too.
There was no lack of facilities though, with a decent-sized kitchen and a latrine, almost as good as those found in more important houses.
We are in the Regio V, an area where excavations were conducted as part of the ‘Great Project’ to shore up the safety-security of the World Heritage Site.
A short walk from here on the same street one finds the grand door of the palace of Marco Lucrezio Frontone, with its frescoed walls in the extraordinary Third Style, the marble atrium and impluvium, the big garden adorned by a magnificent peristyle.
“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” As he acted as guide to the excavation site, Zuchtriegel said that it had been decided to revert to the technique of using casts to shine a new spotlight on the affairs of the city and those devastating final hours of 79AD, as happened a few months ago with the slaves room of the Villa of Civita Giuliana.
Here too the plaster has brought back the furniture, the chest for the precious things packed in a rush, although not exclusively, as, at the bottom, one finds a lamp, a plate and a strip of fabric.
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.
Back on the ground floor, which was partially crushed by the collapse of the ceiling, there is a cabinet-cupboard, which is truly exciting when one thinks that it remained closed with its contents inside for over 2,000 years.
Jammed together inside are plates, glass objects and dishware that will be liberated in what archaeologists call a micro-excavation, and then cleaned up like the many objects found here and there in the various rooms: a delightful painted incense burner, a bronze jug with a refined sphinx head, a big basin, also made of bronze, which was left on a table in one of the rooms. Objects that are on top of the many dozens of more minute objects, such as metal door locks, bone cupboard hinges, small grindstones for bread and wood kindling against the wall of what seems to have been a storeroom.
The dig is ongoing, but Zuchtriegel said the intention is to work on a project to make the rooms safe so they can be opened up to visitors.
They would be part of an itinerary path that goes from the splendor of the House of Lucrezio Frontone to the bare walls of this residence which, perhaps before the 62BC earthquake, was the great home of an important person, but was subsequently split up and occupied by a less wealthy family.
“Pompeii never stops amazing you,” commented Culture Minister Dario Franceschini.
That is even more the case if it also gives us insight into the more modest elements of everyday life there, which remain incredibly relevant today. (ANSA).