Slave quarters unearthed at Pompeii shed light on daily life

Archaeologists excavating Pompeii have uncovered a servants’ room in a villa at Civita Giuliana, which is in the north of the city of Pompeii.

Excavation at the suburban villa has been ongoing since 2017 and so far a ceremonial chariot and a stable containing the remains of three horses have been uncovered – a cast has been made from one of the horses.

The latest discovery is a room containing beds which would have been used by slaves. So far, three wooden beds have been found, as well as a wooden chest containing metal and fabric objects, which appear to be parts of the horse harnesses, say archaeologists. A cast of a chariot shaft found beneath one of the beds has already been made by the team excavating the villa.

The beds used by slaves at the Pompeii villa are made from planks which can be adjusted according to the height and size of the slave using them. The beds also have webbed bases made using ropes. Fabric blankets would cover the beds and these have been preserved as cavities in the ground, along with the webbing.

The dormitory might also have housed a family of slaves, as a child-sized bed was found – as well as household goods such as amphorae, which could suggest the room was also used as storage.

The excavation is a collaboration between the Archaeological Park of Pompeii and the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Torre Annunziata of the Carabinieri, led by Chief Prosecutor Nunzio Fragliasso.

Layout of the slaves’ quarters at Pompeii

Director General of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, Gabriel Zuchtriegel, said:

“This is a window into the precarious reality of people, who seldom appear in historical sources that were written almost exclusively by men belonging to the elite; and who, as a result, risk remaining invisible in the great historical accounts.

“It is a case in which archaeology helps us to discover a part of the ancient world which we would otherwise know little about, but which is nonetheless extremely important.

“What is most striking is the cramped and precarious nature of this room, which was something between a dormitory and a storage room of just 16 sqm, which we can now reconstruct thanks to the exceptional state of preservation created by the eruption of AD 79.

“It is certainly one of the most exciting discoveries during my life as an archaeologist, even without the presence of great ‘treasures’ – the true treasure here is  the human experience; in this case, of the most vulnerable members of ancient society, to which this room is a unique testimony.”

You can read more about the excavation at Pompeii

Buon viaggio!

All images Pompeii

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