Pompeii: did a wizard do it? That's the question absolutely no one is asking after reports that archaeologists in Italy have discovered a "sorcerer's treasure trove" of artifacts of probable spiritual significance and likely related to esoteric rituals in the ruins of Pompeii.
Pompeii, which was destroyed during the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, is a treasure trove for archaeologists in and of itself as the city has been extremely well preserved due to the layers of volcanic ash which act as a sort of weather proofing for the artifacts contained within. This new find is no different, and as is the case with many archaeological digs in Pompeii, this "sorcerer's treasure trove" offers a glimpse into ancient Roman beliefs and customs unparalleled by other dig sites.
Archaeologists announced Monday that they had discovered a vast collection of objects stored inside a trunk in one of the houses in Pompeii. The chest of objects was found at Casa del Giordano, which is the same location where evidence was found that changed the accepted date of Vesuvius' eruption from August 24 to October 24, 79 AD. Massimo Osanna, director of the excavation, says that the objects probably belonged to a female slave or servant, and not the owner of the estate. Despite the extensive collection of artifacts, it was lacking the gold jewelry usually found among the belongings of the wealthy, home-owning class of Pompeii residents
According to the Italian news outlet ANSA, the collection of objects includes "crystals, amber and amethyst stones, buttons made of bones, beetles from the orient, amulets, dolls, bells, miniature penises, fists and even a tiny skull." Massimo Osanna says that these objects had probably had varied ritualistic significance:
"There are dozens of good luck charms next to other objects that were attributed with the power of crushing bad luck. They could have been necklaces that were worn during rituals rather being used to look elegant."
There's an intense sort of irony to finding a box of good luck charms in Pompeii, isn't there?
Osanna also speculates that some of the objects could have been used in fertility rituals, as well as others in the day to day devotional practice of whoever they belonged to. Now archaeologists are trying to determine if there are any DNA ties between this box of objects and the human remains also found in the house. Speaking to the BBC, Osanna said:
"They are objects of everyday life in the female world and are extraordinary because they tell micro-stories, biographies of the inhabitants of the city who tried to escape the eruption. Perhaps the precious box belonged to one of these victims."
Most of the residents of Pompeii were killed by the sudden blast of hot volcanic gas, rather than hit by a flood of lava. It's this immediate and more simply lethal than destructive end to the city that has preserved these artifacts so well and given us future-people perhaps the best view into the lives of the ancient Romans.