House of Visual Delights Discovered in Pompeii
The director of the Pompeii Archaeological Park, Massimo Osanna has announced another momentous discovery at the ruined city. Archaeologists have unearthed a house that belonged to a member of the local elite and has many precious wall paintings. The experts have provisionally named the discovery the ‘House of Jupiter’. It is believed that the dwelling was previously discovered but was forgotten by history. The re-discovered house is expected to add to our knowledge of Pompeii and the art and culture of a Roman provincial town in the first century AD.
The destruction of Pompeii in AD 79
In 79 AD the largest volcano in Europe erupted with devastating consequences. The volcano sent lava flows upon Pompeii and the neighboring towns of Herculaneum, killing perhaps 30,000 inhabitants. Pompeii was completely buried by volcanic ash and pumice and it was forgotten until excavation began in the 18th century.
The hot mud and ash that destroyed the city also paradoxically preserved it for posterity. Many amazing discoveries have been made at Pompeii and they have transformed our understanding of Roman culture and society. Of particular importance has been the discovery of private homes of the elite and the ordinary citizens in the city.
A fresco from the recently (re)discovered ‘House of Jupiter’. (Image: Parco Archeologico Di Pompeii )
The (re)discovery of an overlooked domus
The house was rediscovered during routine conservation work at the sprawling Pompeii site. While preserving the remains of the past, experts chanced upon the ruins in the ‘Regio V district of the town’ according to the Daily Mail . The house has been named the House of Jupiter because of an artwork representing that deity found in what was once its garden.
Based on the size of the house, its frescoes and the fact that it had an atrium, experts have reasoned that it belonged to a person of wealth and considerable culture. The atrium was surrounded by several decorated rooms and the Daily Mail reports it ‘is decorated in first Roman style (primo stile pompeiano)’. The first ‘Roman style’ (more literally ‘first Pompeiian style) used paint on plaster to create the effect that the walls are made of blocks and stone.
Conservation works in the painted blockwork on plaster. (Image: Parco Archeologico Di Pompeii )
Designing the House of Jupiter
This style is leading the experts to argue that the master of the house had it deliberately decorated in a rather old-fashioned style and that he must have been very aware of artistic trends and appreciated art. Typically, the artwork in a house was selected to make a statement about the master of the house, the ‘Domus’, and his family. The quantity and the quality of the artwork and the wall paintings are very impressive and they are all well-preserved.
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Fresco styles include fashions from different eras. (Image: Parco Archeologico Di Pompeii )
Archaeologists have discovered some rooms at the back of the house that seem to have been the private quarters of the house. Many of these rooms were brightly covered and they still retain their visual impact. The family rooms were decorated with frescoes and designs in a style from around 70 AD. Interestingly some of the frescoes in the back rooms have been damaged by fire, possibly as a result of the pyroclastic flows that engulfed Pompeii.
Some of the walls appear to have been scorched. (Image: Parco Archeologico Di Pompeii )
While there has been great excitement over the discovery of the frescoes and artwork, there have also been objects unearthed. In the House of Jupiter, archaeologists have found many artifacts related to an upper-class household. They include glass objects, some coins, a terracotta statuette and some ornate tiles.
The Inquistr, reports that ‘this home was previously known to archaeologists who were working in Pompeii during the 18th and 19th centuries, it has just been rediscovered again’. It seemed that the experts at this time did not recognize the importance of the house and simply abandoned it. Experts intend to continue to excavate the site and expect more artwork and objects to be unearthed.
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The site is continually emerging from the ashes of Vesuvius. (Image: Parco Archeologico Di Pompeii )
The discovery and its implications
It is expected that there are many more artworks and objects to be found in the house. The objects and the paintings are allowing experts to better visualize the private homes of the richer members of the Pompeiian elite. The excavation around the house is one of the biggest ever conducted in that area of Pompeii. Because of the scale of the dig, it is expected that the House of Jupiter will not be fully excavated, down to floor level, for several more years. It is believed that more frescoes, artworks, and objects will be uncovered in the future.
Top image: Excavations at the recently discovered ‘House of Jupiter’. Source: Parco Archeologico Di Pompeii
By Ed Whelan