Stunning Pale-Blue Frescoes Found in Pompeii

A recently excavated Ancient Roman shrine in Pompeii revealed idyllic blue wall frescoes as well as an ample amount of oyster shells.

Located on Block 10 in Regio IX, one of Pompeii’s nine archaeological sectors currently under excavation, the room has been interpreted by researchers to have served as a sacrarium — “a shrine devoted to ritual activities and the storage of sacred objects,” according to a June 7 press release. While the space was initially discovered during the early 17th-century Bourbon period, it wasn’t until recently that the room was excavated by an archaeological team led by Gabriel Zuchtriegel, the current director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii.

Painted in pale blue, a rare color for Pompeian frescoes that was typically reserved for expensive decoration, the approximately 86-square-foot room is estimated to date back approximately 2,000 years to the Fourth Style of Roman wall frescoes, which prevailed from around 20 CE to Mount Vesuvius’s eruption in 79 CE.

Although the room does not have the same elaborate elements found in other examples of the Fourth Style in Pompeii, such as the frescoes at the House of Meleager, its walls are adorned with depictions of the Horae, goddesses symbolizing the four seasons, plus two allegorical figures representing agriculture and sheep-farming wear lush wreaths and pastel cloaks, according to a detailed report published in the electronic journal on the Excavations of Pompeii Archaeological Park website. 

“[In the center] on the left, there is a woman walking from the right; her bent right arm holds a tray with first fruits, while with her left she holds a tool very similar to a plough,” archaeologists wrote in the report.

“The opposite figure walks towards the left with the right leg thrown back; with her outstretched right arm she holds a curved stick, while with her bent left arm she holds out a basket of first fruits,” researchers further detailed in the report. The hooked stick, otherwise known as a pedum, is a tool typically used by shepherds to herd livestock.

Photos from the site also show frescos of local fauna, golden structures featuring vertical columns, and winged zoomorphic statues.

Alongside the frescoes, archaeologists found a collection of objects including 15 transport amphorae (vessels used to store and transport goods), and a collection of bronze items including two jugs, two lamps with hooks, and the base of a small container. 

There was also a pile of more than 120 oyster shells, likely used to create plaster and mortar, according to the press release. 

“The consumption of oysters was quite widespread and appreciated among the wealthy classes of the Roman period,” archaeologists wrote in the report, adding that the mollusks in the room were previously used for consumption, based on their cracked edges.

“The context of their recovery highlights their use as raw material for the restoration activities carried out in this house shortly before the eruption,” the researchers wrote.

The excavation of block 10 in Regio IX is part of a larger preservation effort to protect the cultural heritage of the Pompeii archaeological site, which contains over 13,000 rooms across 1,070 residences.

“Pompeii never ceases to amaze, it is a treasure chest that is still partly unexplored,” Italy’s Minister of Culture Gennaro Sangiuliano said in a press statement. “It is for this reason that we have financed the new excavations and are working to maintain a high quality of the archaeological park.”

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