Archaeologists have just unearthed a new treasure buried among the ruins at Pompeii. This time it is a small Roman household sanctuary known as a ‘lararium.’ Richly decorated, it also bears the traces of offerings made two millennia ago.
The archaeological site of Pompeii represents nothing less than a gold mine for archaeologists. Since the first excavations undertaken in the early eighteenth century, discoveries of all kinds have never ceased. And this inexhaustible vein has just revealed another real golden nugget.
‘A wonderful and enigmatic room,’ these are the first qualifiers put forward by Massimo Osanna, director of the archaeological site of Pompeii, to describe the treasure that has just been unearthed, in the heart of the lost Roman city. Although the excavation work has not yet ended, the ‘wonderful room’ has already revealed a multitude of its riches.
Its walls are adorned with finely executed and very well preserved paintings, representing Roman gods for some. On one of them a man with a dog's head is depicted for example, the Roman version of the Egyptian god Anubis, according to specialists.
Trompe l'oeil paintings
Other paintings give a central role to animals, which are integrated into a garden decoration typical of the Pompeian illusionist style. For example, a majestic peacock was painted at the foot of a wall, giving the impression that it is actually stepping onto the ground. Bounding bulls seem to literally emerge from a wall, which is covered with a bright red pigment reminiscent of blood. This rich place of ornamentation is incredibly well preserved, and revealing of its function.
Integrated into a recessed wall of a small house, the room is, according to specialists, a ‘lararium,’ a modest sanctuary dedicated to the Lares, Roman deities of Etruscan origin who were also called ‘household gods.’ 'Every house had a lararium, somewhere. But only the wealthiest could have had a lararium [integrated] into a dedicated room, with a raised basin and sumptuous decorations,’ said historian Ingrid Rowland, professor at Notre Dame du Lac University in the United States to The New York Times.
Offerings from two millennia ago
Intended to welcome the prayers and offerings made to the gods by the members of the household, the small sanctuary features many characteristics. In addition to its rich ornaments, it has a small altar on which have been found traces of offerings made no less than 2,000 years ago.
‘The offerings that left these residues could have been food, which represented fertility, such as a large number of eggs, figs or nuts,’ says Massimo Osanna. This fertility is also testified to by the eggs painted on the walls, and other Roman symbols of fertility.
‘The room must now be studied in more detail,’ says the director of the archaeological site of Pompeii, in order to reveal and magnify every aspect of this golden nugget discovered in the heart of the archaeological gold mine that is Pompeii. A gold mine which has also recently unveiled another valuable discovery, which upended the previously presumed date of the disappearance of the ancient city.