The dorsal shield is almost intact, the head as intact as the tail and one of the legs. It is a small tortoise, incredibly preserved with its never laid egg, Pompeii’s last surprise, which ANSA documents in preview. Archaeologists found it half a meter deep under the ground floor of a shop on the central Via dell’Abbondanza, where a research shared the Eastern University of Naples, the Free University of Berlin and the University of Oxford he examines the remains of a luxury house, which after the earthquake in 62 AD. was torn down and annexed to Stabianbadet. “Pompeii, a historical treasure chest that fascinates the world,” welcomes the Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini.
It is an important find, explains the director of the archeological park, Gabriel Zuchtriegel, “which opens a window to the last years of city life”, those after the earthquake, “where the whole of Pompeii was transformed into a large, vibrant construction site”. In this situation, the city’s ecosystem is changing, the director emphasizes, with wild animals finding their place in the premises being processed or in shops like this, right in the center. The tortoise had apparently entered the tabernacle “and there, in a sheltered corner, it had dug a cave where it could lay its egg,” notes the anthropologist Valeria Amoretti, “which she did not succeed in, and which could have caused the death.” Research will now continue in the laboratory, but in the meantime, with the help of students from the University of Neapolitan, the floors and decorations of the magnificent house that originally occupied these spaces come to light. A home of absolute value, they emphasize Marco Giglio dell’Orientale and Monika Trumper from the University of Berlin, which between halls and courtyard stretched over 900 square meters in a very central area of the city. With mosaic rugs that, because of their complexity and beauty, the professors point out, can be compared to those of the Villa of Mysteries or Casa di Cerere, made precious by refined and rare designs that in some cases reproduce the wonders of Roman architecture, such as the long aqueduct that appeared on the floor of the tablinum.
A marvel that recent weeks’ excavations have also returned through fragments of what it once was: polychrome marble clogs, a small beautiful terracotta mask, even a painted shell that should turn out fine somewhere. Unfortunately, there are only two fragments left of the walls, small but of strong effect, with elaborate and colorful murals in the second style, the one that was in vogue in the first century. a C. And not only that: In another corner of the shop, where the turtle was found, where the entrance to the domus was originally supposed to be, archaeologists found a votive grave, largely a hole dug on the occasion of the founding of the house, with remains of burnt forest and promising sacrifices to the gods. A very widespread practice in the Roman world, Giglio emphasizes, but that in Pompeii it was not possible to investigate. Among the coals was still the broken olla that had contained the victims along with a small lamp. And from this, which dates back to the beginning of the first century BC, Giglio explains, “the evidence has come that this house was actually built in the first half of the first century BC”. Perhaps immediately after 80 BC, he adds, as the city after the siege of Silla suffered the shame of its transformation into a Roman colony. There is still mystery about who the rich owner was: perhaps a Roman major, a senior army officer, or perhaps a Pompeian who had cheered on Silla? The professor is not unbalanced: “Surely an eminent character of Pompeian life,” he replies. “Now we can say no more, we hope to understand more in the next excavation campaign, in 2023”. Just as it remains to be understood why this magnificent dwelling 150 years after its construction was leveled to the ground.
Also in this case we can only reason on the basis of hypotheses: perhaps the earthquake had damaged it so much that it was not very convenient to renovate it; or perhaps, as documented in other situations in Pompeii, the fear of the earthquake convinced the owners to move to a situation that was considered safer. Not to mention that the family that had founded it could have fallen into disrepair in the meantime. Of course, at the moment it is only that all the splendor, thanks to the prices of the real estate market that collapsed after the earthquake, passed to the property of the city administration, which made it available to the spas in which it was decided to invest. Much by building a new large swimming pool equipped with running water, spectacular nymphs, ultra-modern and super-technological environments on time. Monika Trumper, the expert spa archaeologist who leads the German group, is in no doubt: “Here we built relentlessly and we looked to the future with confidence. No one really had any idea about the disaster that would soon come to Pompeii”.