How did the enslaved workers of Pompeii live? A new discovery provides a rare glimpse

What was the life like for the slave workers in Pompeii? This is a rare glimpse at a new discovery
Enlarge this image toggle caption Parco Archeologico di Pompei via AP Parco Archeologico di Pompei via AP

Archaeologists from Pompeii, an ancient Roman city, discovered a room that was almost intact and used as a dormitory for enslaved persons. Three wooden beds, a chamber container, a wooden chest, and several tall Roman amphorae are found in the room. It was all covered in cinerite, a sedimentary stone mainly made of volcanic ash.

The room was discovered in Civita Giuliana (a suburb north of the city), where researchers have made many remarkable discoveries over the years. These include an intact ceremonial cart and remains of two victims thought to be master and slave. Officials stated Saturday that the latest discovery offers a rare insight into slave life.

Nearly 2,000 years ago, Vesuvius' massive explosion was one of history's most famous natural disasters. It killed thousands and buried Pompeii under 20 feet ash. This effectively put an end to the city and all its inhabitants. This city is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which contains valuable information about ancient life.

Gabriel Zuchtriegel is the site's director. He says that this discovery provides a valuable and often overlooked context of how the city's wealthy relied on others for their success. He said that this is a glimpse into the precarious reality faced by people who are often not mentioned in historical sources, which were almost exclusively written by elite men and risk being invisible in great historical accounts.

Three workers would have lived in the room, who would have performed daily tasks such as maintaining and preparing the impressive chariot that was found earlier this year. The walls are lined with three beds, one of which is smaller than the others. It is thought that the third bed belonged to a child who was made from planks of wood and then webbed with ropes. Nearby is a wooden trunk, which is filled with metal and fabric. It appears to be part of the horse harnesses used by the chariot. The room's corners are filled with tall ceramic jugs, which suggests that it was used as storage and housing. One tiny window at the top provided light.

Enlarge this image toggle caption Parco Archeologico di Pompei via AP Parco Archeologico di Pompei via AP

Zuchtriegel said, "What's most striking about this room is its cramped and precariousness." It is undoubtedly one of my most exciting discoveries in archaeology. Even without great 'treasures,' the real treasure is the human experience. In this case, the most vulnerable members ancient society were present, and this room is an exceptional testimony to that."

A video was tweeted by the Italian Ministry of Culture showing the room.

Dario Franceschini (Italy's minister for culture), said that "our knowledge of the daily lives of ancient Pompeiians was enriched," "especially of that aspect of society about which very little is known today."