Last week I told the story of my visit to Pompeii. Serendipitously, the ancient city is back in the news. First a little background. Up until very recently, only two thirds (109 acres) of ancient Pompeii had been actually excavated, while the rest was buried under tons of volcanic ash from Mt Vesuvius’ eruption 2000 years ago. Plans were to leave the last acres untouched as the prevailing opinion was that it was better to spend on maintaining the excavated area.
However, this continuing maintenance hit a snag when a major section of the Gladiators’ Barracks, called the Schola Armaturarum collapsed.
It seemed that over two thousand years of extreme pressure from the mass of non excavated Pompeii land pushed against the the restored city until the excavated Gladiators’ Barracks fell apart in 2010. A full court press was established to fund restoration of the previously excavated area, but in order to accomplish this a small portion of non-excavated ground surrounded the restored city was included. This work was done from 2017-=2019.
Some of the new findings during this additional excavation are astonishing.
The body of a victim fleeing the eruption was discovered during the new excavationsParco Archeologico di Pompei
As they dug, parts of the center of the city began to emerge including the above skeleton who appears to have been crushed as the person tried to escape the eruption of Mt Vesuvius, even carrying a bag of silver and bronze coins. When further investigation was performed however, it was discovered that this person had died from asphyxiation of the pyroclastic flow.
Others who were overcome include the following who had tried to take refuge inside:
People were not the only ones caught up in the swift moving pyroclastic flow
On another street, an newly excavated house revealed a number of highly sensualized frescos and paintings. The first is a fresco of the princess, Leda, who was an Aetolian princess and later became a Spartan queen. She is having it on with a swan, which is the disguise taken by the enamored God Zeus, who hoodwinked Leda into believing he needed rescue from an eagle. This consummation occurred on the same night Leda lad sex with her husband, and two fertilized eggs were the result. From these eggs came Helen of Troy and Castor and Pollux:
The owner of this house obviously had a them going in his decorations. It also included this painting of the God Priapus, the God of fertility, Priapus was considered a minor deity, but there was nothing minor about his genitalia. In this painting his enormous permanently erect penis is being weighed on a scale:
Priapism is actually a medical term used to this day.
The excavation is not only revealing artwork, jewelry, items of everyday life as well as the victims of the volcanic eruption. It is also providing some new tantalizing clues as to the actual date. This charcoal writing was also taken from the same house that contained the Leda and Priapus artwork:
It is dated October of 79 CE. Initially, the date of the volcanic eruption was believed to be August 24, using first-hand account written by Roman writer Pliny the Younger.
Now historians and archaeologists believe it took place on October 24.