Monday, November 8, 2021

A Bedroom for Slaves at Civita Giuliana, Pompeii

At Pompeii, archaeologists have been exploring the Villa Giuliana, which is in an area where new digs have been opened up because of the threat from looting. The villa had extensive stables where archaeologists found horse skeletons, fancy horse harness, and pieces of a ceremonial chariot. Adjacent to the stable they have just uncovered a bedroom that they think was used by household slaves:

The room offers an extraordinary glimpse into a part of the ancient world that usually remains largely in the dark. The room grants us a rare insight into the daily reality of slaves, 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.

The discovery itself took place not far from the portico where, in the month of January 2021, a ceremonial chariot was found that is currently undergoing consolidation and restoration work. . . .

In fact, within the room, where three wooden beds have been found, a wooden chest was discovered containing metal and fabric objects, which appear to be parts of the horse harnesses. 

The beds are made of several roughly worked wooden planks which could be adjusted according to the height of whoever used them. While two of them are about 1.7 metres long, one bed measures just 1.4 metres, and may therefore have belonged to a child.

The webbed bases of the beds were made of ropes, the imprints of which are partially discernible in the cinerite, and above which fabric blankets were placed and which have also been preserved as cavities in the ground and recreated through the plaster cast method.

Several personal objects were found under the beds, including amphorae positioned to store private possessions, 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.

In addition to serving as a dormitory for a group of slaves - possible a small family, as the presence of the child-sized bed would suggest - the room was also used for storage, as demonstrated by the eight amphorae crammed into the corners that were otherwise left free for just this purpose.

Remarkable. It also makes me wonder how many discoveries like this were made during the first century of the excavation but either ignored or not properly reported because nobody cared very much. Or perhaps they were reported, but there is just so much stuff from Pompeii that we only have a chance to learn about the most exciting one percent of the finds. I have a hunch that there is a ton of data about Roman slavery buried in the notes and photographs from past digs.

Overall plan of the stable area.

1 comment:

Kpgoog said...