See the Stunning Shrine With Rare Blue-Painted Walls Unearthed at Pompeii

The 86-square-foot space is adorned with artworks depicting female figures and agricultural imagery

Room with blue walls with jugs leaning up against one wall
Archaeologists found amphorae, bronze jugs, bronze lamps and construction materials inside the room. Pompeii Archaeological Park

Archaeologists are constantly making new discoveries at Pompeii, the ancient city preserved for 2,000 years by volcanic rock and ash from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 C.E. They’ve unearthed a pregnant tortoisechildren’s graffiti, a painting of a flatbread resembling a pizza and frescoes depicting mythological characters associated with the Trojan War, just to name a few recent finds.

This week, researchers announced that they have excavated another stunning discovery: an opulent shrine with rare blue paint on the walls.

The room is thought to be a sacrarium, a kind of ancient Roman shrine where ritual activities took place and sacred objects were housed. In addition to their blue color, the walls are covered with paintings of women thought to represent the four seasons.

Close-up of blue painted wall with a female figure painted on it
Researchers think the women on the walls represent the seasons. Pompeii Archaeological Park

Other walls feature imagery of sheep farming and agriculture, including a plow and a staff used by shepherds and hunters. One painting “appears to be a large spotted cat,” according to McClatchy’s Brendan Rascius.

The room’s hue is particularly special, as blue “rarely occurs in Pompeian frescoes and was generally used for elaborately decorated rooms,” according to a statement from the Pompeii Archaeological Park.

The discovery was made during recent excavations in Regio IX, a residential area of central Pompeii that is currently “one of the most active excavation sites for new findings,” per CNN’s Antonia Mortensen and Jessie Gretener. At its peak, Regio IX was home to more than 13,000 rooms spread across 1,070 housing units.

The room measures about 86 square feet. Inside, archaeologists found household furnishings and 15 vessels known as amphorae, two bronze jugs and two bronze lamps. They also uncovered construction materials, likely used for renovations, and a pile of empty oyster shells, which may have been saved to grind down and add to mortar and plaster.

Pile of oyster shells on the ground
The oyster shells were likely saved to be ground down and added to mortar and plaster. Pompeii Archaeological Park

Gennaro Sangiuliano, Italy’s culture minister, visited Pompeii this week and described the archaeological site as “a treasure chest that is still partly unexplored,” reports CNN.

By the first century C.E., Pompeii was a bustling seaside Roman town on the southwest coast of Italy with an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 inhabitants. Nearby Mount Vesuvius began erupting in late 79 C.E., spewing debris and hot, toxic gasses over the town. (While historians previously dated the disaster to August 24, recent research suggests it may have occurred a few months later.) Some residents fled and survived, but around 2,000 Pompeiians were killed in the disaster.

The eruption also blanketed other surrounding villages and towns, including Herculaneum. In total, up to 16,000 people are thought to have died.

For hundreds of years, Pompeii remained buried under its volcanic blanket. It was rediscovered in the late 16th century, and researchers have been fascinated with the site ever since. It’s been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997 and continues to welcome archaeologists and travelers from around the world.

Editor’s note, June 10, 2024: This story has been updated to more accurately reflect the historical consensus regarding the date of Mount Vesuvius’ eruption.

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