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Take a Virtual Tour of Two Recently Excavated Homes in Pompeii

Pompeii Archaeological Park Director Massimo Osanna narrates stunning drone footage of preserved daily life in the ancient city

The House With the Garden, seen here, is one of two excavated sites featured in the new video tour. (Photo by Marco Cantile / LightRocket via Getty Images)
smithsonianmag.com

For the last two years, ongoing excavations in Pompeii’s Regio V have unearthed extraordinary examples of daily life in the ancient Roman city. In one middle-class home, archaeologists discovered traces of a millennia-old garden; on the floor of another residence, they discovered a remarkably intact mosaic of the hunter Orion turning into a constellation—likely a reference to an obscure myth, as Franz Lidz reported for Smithsonian magazine last September.

Now, thanks to a short but stunning video tour released Tuesday by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, audiences can enjoy a bird’s-eye view (or rather a drone’s-eye view) of these new excavations from the comfort of home, reports HeritageDaily.

In the video, Pompeii Archaeological Park Director Massimo Osanna narrates a tour of two Pompeiian homes that were entombed in ash alongside the rest of the city when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. The director’s Italian remarks are translated into English in a statement and can also be read using YouTube’s auto-translate feature, according to HeritageDaily.

Osanna takes viewers inside two domus dwellings, or private residences, on either side of Vicolo dei Balconi, or Alley of the Balconies. In the first home, dubbed the House With the Garden, researchers were able to make casts of the roots of plants that grew in the family’s garden. The team also found macabre evidence of Mount Vesuvius’ toll: the remains of 11 people, mostly women and children, who were likely taking shelter from the fatal blast during their final moments.

Just across the street is the House of Orion, which derives its name from colorful floor mosaics that depict Orion, suspended over a coiled cobra, turning into a constellation. The snake’s appearance may reference a Greek myth with ancient Egyptian influences, Osanna speculates during the tour.

“The owner of the house must have been greatly attracted to this myth, considering it features in two different rooms in which two different scenes of the myth are depicted,” the director continues. “It is a small house which has proved to be an extraordinary treasure chest of art.”

Sorceress' kit
A sorceress' kit unearthed in Pompeii last year (Pompeii Archaeological Park)

Regio V, a 54-acre area north of the archaeological park, is currently being excavated as part of the Great Pompeii Project, a $140 million conservation project underwritten in large part by the European Union. Already, the project has yielded a number of exciting finds, including a richly painted thermopolium, or “fast food” stand, where Pompeiians would have snacked on spiced wine; cheeses; and garum, a potent sauce made from fish insides, reported Angela Giuffrida for the Guardian in March 2019. Other fascinating finds include a sorceress’ kit, a bloody gladiator fresco and a still-saddled horse.

“These excavations have yielded an extraordinary cross-section of … daily life of this city,” says Osanna in the video.

As Smithsonian magazine reported last year, the discovery of a specific set of graffiti in Regio V yielded crucial new insight on the city’s history. Based on the date listed in the graffiti—the 16th day before the first of November on the ancient calendar, or October 17 on the modern one—archaeologists now suspect that Vesuvius erupted in the fall, not in August as previously believed.

“This spectacular find finally allows us to date, with confidence, the disaster,” Osanna told Smithsonian. “… When you reconstruct the daily life of this vanished community, two months of difference are important. We now have the lost piece of a jigsaw puzzle.”

About Nora McGreevy

Nora McGreevy is a freelance journalist based in South Bend, Indiana. Her work has appeared in Wired, Washingtonian, the Boston Globe, South Bend Tribune, the New York Times and more. She can be reached through her website, noramcgreevy.com.

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