Pompeii, excavations in Regio IX bring to light a sacrarium with blue walls


A detailed report has been published in the e-Journal of the Excavations of Pompeii https://pompeiisites.org/e-journal-degli-scavi-di-pompei/ about a new room excavated in the central area of the ancient city. The room is painted blue and has been interpreted as a sacrarium, a shrine devoted to ritual activities and the storage of sacred objects. The room was shown for the first time in the programme ‘Speciale Meraviglie’ broadcast by RAI on 27 May, curated and presented by Alberto Angela.

Against the blue background of the walls, female figures are depicted to the sides of the niches in the centre. In the lateral niches, the figures represent the Horae, the four seasons, while the figures in the central panel are allegories of agriculture and sheep-farming, as indicated by the attributes of the plough and the pedum, a short staff used by shepherds and hunters.

The colour blue found in this room rarely occurs in Pompeian frescoes and was generally used for elaborately decorated rooms.

The room had been partly explored during the Bourbon period. The excavation has brought to light objects related to the furnishings of the house, temporarily in storage while building work was being carried out on the whole complex. Fifteen transport amphorae were discovered in the room together with a set of bronze objects consisting of two jugs and two lamps. Piles of building materials were also found, ready to be used in the renovation work. A heap of empty oyster shells was found by the threshold. The shells were probably finely ground to add to plaster and mortar.

The room, which is about 8 sq.m. in size, came to light among the structures situated in the southern part of the block (insula) which belonged to a secondary district of a large domus. The structures that have emerged include bath buildings which are still being excavated and a large black frescoed reception room overlooking a courtyard with a staircase leading up to the first floor of the complex.

The excavations in Insula 10 of Regio IX are part of a broader project designed to shore up the perimeter between the excavated and unexcavated areas and to improve the hydrogeological structure in order to make safeguarding the vast heritage of Pompeii (over 13,000 rooms in 1070 residential units, as well as public and sacred areas) more effective and sustainable.