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Archaeologists unearth slave bedroom in ancient Roman villa near Pompeii

Finding at Civita Giuliana villa throws light on lowly status of slaves in ancient world
Finding at Civita Giuliana villa throws light on lowly status of slaves in ancient world Copyright Credit: Italian Culture Ministry/EPA
Copyright Credit: Italian Culture Ministry/EPA
By Theo FarrantAFP
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The discovery reveals the harsh reality of life for those dwelling in the lower echelons of society during the Roman period.


A small bedroom, that was most likely used by slaves nearly 2,000 years ago, has been unearthed in a Roman villa near Pompeii. 

The room's location is within the Civita Giuliana villa, situated approximately 600 metres north of Pompeii's walls. 

Inside the room, there were two beds, with only one having a mattress. Additionally, two small cabinets were present along with an array of urns and ceramic containers, within which the remains of two mice and a rat were discovered.

“These details once again underline the conditions of precarity and poor hygiene in which the lower echelons of society lived during that time,” the culture ministry said in its statement.

Notably, no indications of grates, locks, or chains to confine the room's occupants were found. 

Credit: AFP
A ceramic container discovered in the slave dwelling near PompeiiCredit: AFP

The furnishings underwent reconstruction through the unique casting technique exclusively found within the vicinity of Pompeii. 

Due to the 79 A.D. eruption, items were enveloped by the pyroclastic cloud and subsequently transformed into solid soil. As organic matter decomposed over time, it created empty spaces in the earth - imprints that, upon being filled with plaster, unveil their original shapes.

"The possibility of making casts, i.e. of filling the voids left in the cinerite of the layer of ash from the eruption of Vesuvius with plaster, has made it possible here to obtain almost a photograph of a room most probably inhabited by servants, by slaves," explains Gabriel Zuchtriegel, the director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii. 

The Civita Giuliana villa underwent excavation activities during the years 1907 to 1908. 

Subsequent efforts took place in 2017 after law enforcement authorities became aware of unauthorised excavations and looting at the site.

Check out the video above for a closer look inside the ancient slave quarter.

Video editor • Theo Farrant

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