Archaeologists working on excavations in the buried Roman city of Pompeii have unearthed a 2,000-year-old collection of objects, including amulets, gems, and “good luck charms.”
Most of the objects would have belonged to women and would have been “used for personal ornamentation or to protect from bad luck,” according to the Parco Archeologico di Pompei (Archaeological Park of Pompeii).
The treasure trove, which also included two mirrors, pieces of necklace, decorative elements made of faïence, bronze, bone, and amber, a glass unguentary, phallic amulets, a human figure and various gems (including an amethyst with a female figure and a carnelian with a craftsman figure), was found in one of the rooms of the House of the Garden, a private residence discovered in 1953 and excavated over a course of several decades.
A glass bead engraved with the head of Dionysus, the Roman god of wine, fertility and ritual madness, was also discovered.
The objects are believed to have belonged to prosperous inhabitants of the house, who left them behind as they escaped — or died from — the volcanic eruption from Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79.
They were found in what remained of a wooden box, and the box itself had decomposed and only the bronze hinges remained, preserved by the volcanic material which hardened over it.
“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,” said Massimo Osanna, general director of the archaeological park.
In the same house, archaeologists also discovered the remains of 10 victims, including women and children. Experts are now attempting to establish kinship relationships between the individuals through DNA analysis.
The amulets will go on display, along with other recent Pompeii discoveries, as part of an exhibition at Pompeii’s Palestra Grande (Large Gymnasium). The site was once an athletic field that was used by gladiators and youth sports clubs promoted by the Emperor Augustus for training.
Most victims in Pompeii were not asphyxiated by volcanic ash and gas. A 2010 study said most of the victims died instantly of extreme heat, with many casualties shocked into a sort of instant rigor mortis, National Geographic reported.
Scientists concluded that Mt. Vesuvius, some 6 miles from Pompeii, produced six different pyroclastic surges— fast-moving, ground-hugging waves of hot, toxic gases, and ash. Most of the deaths occurred in the fourth surge, which caused temperatures to rise up to 570 degrees F, killing people in a fraction of a second.