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Of Mice and Men

New discoveries in the servants’ quarters of the Roman villa of Civita Giuliana near Pompeii

The archaeological excavation of the villa, begun under the direction of then director M. Osanna, is still going on and has led to a series of unexpected discoveries. Among these were a stable where it was possible to make a plaster cast of a horse, the remains of a ceremonial carriage (pilentum) decorated with silver and bronze medallions and appliques, and two victims of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, of whom casts were made (Osanna, Toniolo 2022, pp. 97-233). As if this had not been thrilling enough, several rooms excavated since 2021 have provided a unique insight into the living conditions of enslaved people in antiquity. In two rooms it has been possible to reconstruct much of the ancient furniture and to recover numerous small finds.

As a result, we get a glimpse of virtually photographic quality into the lives of a group of people who hardly appear in the written sources, and if they do so it is almost exclusively from an elite perspective.

The restoration and analysis of the amphorae and other finds is still underway. Yet, there is already evidence that the servants sharing this room were not the only inhabitants. The micro-excavation of the pottery vessels and archaeozoological analyses indicate that also some small rodents were  present in room c (cf. Nappi 2001). Remains of two wood/yellow-necked mice (Apodemus sylvaticus/ flavicollis), one adult and one juvenile, respectively, were found in the amphora stored horizontally under the bed along the southern wall of the room.

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