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In the year 79 CE Mount Vesuvius erupted, burying the city of Pompeii under 20 feet of ash and pumice. The city was then lost for over 1,500 years until its initial rediscovery in 1599. Because it was so well preserved, it remains one of the best archaeological sources for ancient Roman culture. Check out some of its strangest artifacts below...
1. Cave Canem mosaic (Latin for “Beware of Dog”)
Careful of this canine! This mosaic was uncovered on the floor of the entrance hall to the House of the Tragic Poet.
2. Plaster Casts of Human Bodies
Many lives were tragically lost due to the pyroclastic flows (fast-moving currents of hot gas and rock) of the eruption. While excavating thousands of years later, archaeologists found that long-decomposed organic material had left gaps in the 20-foot layer of ancient volcanic ash. To reveal their shape, archaeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli designed a way to fill them with plaster. The technique produced stunning casts of human bodies, frozen in their death throes. This victim shown above was discovered during excavations at the southern walkway of Pompeii’s Large Palaestra, or athletics area.
3. Ancient Graffiti
You think you’ve seen bawdy graffiti in our bathroom stalls? Check out some of the comical scribbles below. The eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 CE preserved both painted and inscribed graffiti all over the city.
Husband for Sale?
I don’t want to sell my husband, not for all the gold in the world.
(VII.2.48, House of Caprasius Primus)
The man I am having dinner with is a barbarian.
(VIII.2, in the basilica)
We have wet the bed, host. I confess we have done wrong. If you want to know why, there was no chamber pot.
(VIII.7.6, Inn of the Muledrivers (left of the door))
Jenny - 867-5309
4. Preserved Loaf of Bread
Don’t try to take a bite out of this toast. Covered for centuries beneath the volcanic ash that preserved Pompeii, this bread loaf even features a Roman bread stamp, used by all ancient Roman bakeries to differentiate their bread from others.
5. Butchered Giraffe Bone from an Ancient Restaurant Drain
Believe it or not, lower status Ancient Pompeiians ate take-out just as much as we do. Pristinely preserved food stalls and restaurants line the ancient streets of Pompeii. Nearly everything we know about what kinds of food these stalls served is based on the archaeological finds discovered in their drains and garbages. This included a variety of meats, from fish to chickens to, that’s right, giraffe.
Archaeologist Steven Ellis, head excavator at Pompeii, writes: “A drain from a central property revealed a richer variety of foods as well as imports from outside Italy, such as shellfish, sea urchin and even delicacies including the butchered leg joint of a giraffe…How part of the animal, butchered, came to be a kitchen scrap in a seemingly standard Pompeian restaurant not only speaks to long-distance trade in exotic and wild animals, but also something of the richness, variety and range of a non-elite diet.”
Dawn Fuller, "No Scrounging for Scraps: UC Research Uncovers the Diets of the Middle and Lower Class in Pompeii," University of Cincinnati News, http://www.uc.edu/news/NR.aspx?id=19029
"House of the Tragic Poet," Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_the_Tragic_Poet
"Daily Life: Body Casts," A Day in Pompeii Exhibit, Melbourne Museum, http://museumvictoria.com.au/melbournemuseum/discoverycentre/pompeii/daily-life/body-casts/
"Preserved Loaf of Bread Discovered at Pompeii," RidiculouslyInteresting.com, http://ridiculouslyinteresting.com/2013/07/22/preserved-loaf-of-bread-discovered-at-pompeii/
Dr. Brian Harvey, "Graffiti from Pompeii," Pompeiana.org, http://www.pompeiana.org/resources/ancient/graffiti%20from%20pompeii.htm