New Pompeii Find Is a Middle-Class House Trying to Look Rich

The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the year 79 wiped out the city of Pompeii. Even though it’s a bustling tourist site, scientists regularly unearth interesting archeological finds. The most recent includes remarkably well-preserved household items. According to the Archaeological Park of Pompeii’s  news release, what’s particularly interesting is their relative simplicity compared to the opulence of the attached courtyard. These finds give a look at Pompeii’s middle-class households.

The property is dubbed the House of the Lararium, which is an altar celebrating the household’s guardian spirits. In this case, that’s good luck and prosperity. The lararium itself suggests a rich occupant. But inside the house, the team found only simple wooden furniture and no paintings. This suggests the middle-class family was keeping up appearances rather than living luxuriously.  

A woman in a hard hat holds a clay plate in her gloved hands
Archaeological Park of Pompeii

“In the Roman Empire there was a significant proportion of the population which fought for their social status,” explains Massimo Osanna, director general of museums, in the release. “It was a social class that was vulnerable during political crises and famines, but also ambitious to climb the social ladder. In the House of the Lararium at Pompeii, the owner was able to embellish the courtyard with the lararium and the basin for the cistern with exceptional paintings, yet evidently funds were insufficient to decorate the five rooms of the house.”

Two photos of an archeological dig site in Pompeii with plates and bowls
Archaeological Park of Pompeii

We saw the news on DesignTAXI. The dig uncovered plates, bowls, and amphorae (long-necked jars) as well as furniture like a wooden cabinet, small table, and chest. Other recent discoveries in and around Pompeii include artifacts belonging to the rich, like a Roman chariot. Or the quarter of very poor slave laborers. Middle-class households are apparently more rare and the House of the Lararium is an interesting and unexpected find.  

Archeologists also recently found the remains of a pregnant tortoise in Pompeii. It may not be of cultural significance, but it certainly is very interesting.

Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth. 

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