Archaeologists at Pompeii said they uncovered a “sorcerer’s treasure trove” of objects that appear to have primarily belonged to women, ANSA, Italy’s leading wire service, reported Monday. The amulets, gems, and other items were found in the remains of a wooden box, and were most likely used for personal ornamentation or protection from bad luck. Among the objects found were crystals, buttons made of bones, phallic amulets, and a glass bead engraved with the head of Dionysus. The jewels will be exhibited at the Palestra Grande in an exhibition dedicated to jewels from the Cyclades and Pompeii.
“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,” Massimo Osanna, general director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, said in a press release.
Osanna told ANSA he thought it more likely that the objects belonged to a servant or a slave than the owner of the house where they were found, and that none of the objects include the gold favored by wealthy Pompeiians. Archaeologists suggested the objects may have been used in various rituals related to fertility or seduction.
The city, destroyed by the violent eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 C.E., provides unique insight into Greco-Roman life due to the ash that almost perfectly preserved the remains of the community. Pompeii, along with two other cities preserved by the Mount Vesuvius eruption, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. The chest containing the objects was found in the House of Garden in Region V, the same place where an inscription was recently discovered that caused historians to change the date of when Pompeii is thought to have been destroyed.
In the same house, archaeologists discovered the bodies of 10 people, and are now trying to determine whether any of the victims were related to one another. Osanna added:
Perhaps the precious box belonged to one of these victims. Interesting is the iconography of objects and amulets, which invoke fortune, fertility, and protection against bad luck. [. . .] Symbols and iconographies that are now being studied to understand their meaning and function.