Pompeii Dig Reveals Ancient Slave Life Insights

pompeii dig reveals ancient slave life insights.jpg Technology

In a groundbreaking discovery near the ancient ruins of Pompeii, archaeologists have unearthed a small bedroom believed to have been occupied by slaves. The discovery was made at the Civita Giuliana villa, situated approximately 600 meters north of the Pompeii walls – a city that met its tragic end almost 2,000 years ago due to the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The room, housing two beds, of which only one had a mattress, two small cabinets, and a series of urns and ceramic containers, provides a stark glimpse into the harsh living conditions of the lower strata of society in Roman times.

This significant revelation, according to the culture ministry, underscores the precarious and unhygienic living conditions endured by the lower classes in that period. The room’s contents, including the remains of two mice and a rat found in the urns and ceramic containers, provide a vivid picture of the squalid living conditions. Further enhancing this narrative are the materials such as furniture and fabric, which over the years, decomposed after being covered by the devastating Vesuvian blast of rock fragments, gas, and ash, leaving a void in the debris.

Unearthing Slavery: Roman Villa Sheds Light on Ancient Servitude

Archaeologists have made a fascinating discovery near the ancient city of Pompeii: a tiny bedroom believed to have been used by slaves. The find, made at Civita Giuliana villa, located about 600 meters north of the Pompeii city walls, provides a glimpse into the harsh living conditions of the lower social strata in the Roman era.

Unveiling the Squalor of Servitude

The room was found to contain two beds, one of which lacked a mattress, a pair of small cabinets, and several urns and ceramic containers, one of which held the remains of two mice and a rat. The culture ministry stressed these findings highlight "the conditions of precarity and poor hygiene in which the lower echelons of society lived during that time."

The destructive eruption of Mount Vesuvius nearly 2,000 years ago blanketed the area with fragments of rock, gas, and ash. Over time, materials such as furniture and fabric decomposed, leaving voids in the debris. When filled with plaster, these voids reveal the original shape of the now-gone materials, including the outline of a crumpled blanket on the bed netting. The culture ministry likened the scene to "a photograph… from almost 2000 years ago."

Control Without Chains

Interestingly, no signs of physical restraints, such as grates, locks, or chains, were found in the room. This suggests that "control was primarily exerted through the internal organization of servitude, rather than physical barriers and restraints," according to Gabriel Zuchtriegel, the director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii.

The Fight Against Plundering

The Civita Giuliana villa has been the site of archaeological excavations since 1907, but the efforts were renewed in 2017 when it was discovered that the site was being plundered by illegal diggers. Sadly, part of one of the beds was destroyed by a tunnel used by robbers to access another part of the villa.

The Importance of Preservation

The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 buried Pompeii and its surrounding areas under thick layers of volcanic ash, preserving many of its residents and buildings. Recent archaeological efforts have been focused on preventing further decay and neglect, mainly due to a recently concluded €105 million ($115.58 million) EU-funded project. Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano vowed that conservation and research efforts would continue, stating, "What we are learning about the material conditions and social organization of that era opens up new horizons for historical and archaeological studies."


This discovery emphasizes the importance of archaeological work in shedding light on the past, particularly on aspects often overlooked, such as the living conditions of slaves. It also underscores the necessity of preserving these sites from plundering and decay. As we continue to unearth the past, we deepen our understanding of human history, allowing us to better appreciate where we’ve been and how far we’ve come.

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