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Rare and expensive blue shrine unearthed in Pompeii after almost 2,000 years

  

Category:  News & Politics

Via:  perrie-halpern  •  4 weeks ago  •  43 comments

By:   Kelly Cobiella and Laura Saravia

Rare and expensive blue shrine unearthed in Pompeii after almost 2,000 years
Buried and unseen for centuries, a sacred room has been unearthed at Pompeii with painted blue walls, a rare and expensive color in the Roman city.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T


POMPEII, Italy — Buried and unseen for nearly 2,000 years, a sacred room has been unearthed at Pompeii with painted blue walls, a rare and expensive color in the Roman city.

Describing it as a "very unusual thing for Pompeii," the site's director Gabriel Zuchtriegel told NBC News on a tour of the newly excavated sitethat blue "was the most expensive color" because it was difficult to make.

240611-pompeii-blue-room-se-428p-799c68.jpg A rare blue room discovered in Pompeii with transport amphorae, left, and a pile of already worn oyster shells on the threshold of the entrance, which were probably added to plaster and mortar mixes once they had been ground up.Parco Pompei / Abaca Press/Sipa USA via AP

"You had to import it from Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean and beyond. So it was expensive, and if you wanted to have something in blue, you had to pay more," he said. Red, yellow and black were much easier to produce because natural materials like stone and sand were widely available, he added.

The startling finding was first revealed to NBC News on Tuesday.

It comes from block No. 10 of Pompeii's ninth section, a never-before excavated area of the town destroyed in the eruption of the Vesuvius volcano in 79 A.D.

Decorated with female figures representing the four seasons and portrayals of agriculture and sheep farming, the room has been "interpreted as a sacrarium, a shrine devoted to ritual activities and the storage of sacred objects," the Archaeological Park of Pompeii said in a news release.

240611-Pompeii-blue-room-Gabriel-Zuchtriegel-se-1145a-cb0b63.jpg Blue "was the most expensive color," the site's director Gabriel Zuchtriegel said.Angela Neil / NBC News

For wealthy politicians and business owners, an elaborate classical painting was a prime showpiece and talking point when entertaining guests.

Those who painted rooms in blue were saying, "I can afford something which is not everybody's capacity," Zuchtriegel said.

Mishael Quraishi, an archeology major, is one of several students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology working on the site. Using specially adapted night vision goggles and handheld scanners, they are studying the new find.

Describing the room as "stunning," she said it was really rare to see such high quantities of Egyptian blue in one concentrated area.

It was "the first synthetically manufactured pigment in human history," said Quraishi, 21, adding that it was made from a copper source "so brass filings could be an option."

240611-pompeii-blue-room-detail-se-428p-403e80.jpg The figures flank niches in the center and depict the four seasons, autumn, shown above.Parco Pompei / Abaca Press/ Sipa USA via AP

After putting the elements together she said they were heated at incredibly high temperatures over many hours "and then this sort of glassy type material is formed with these Egyptian blue crystals in it."

Sophie Hay, an archaeologist who works on the site, said the fact that frescos were painted when the plaster was wet meant "the pigments were sealed into the plaster." Had they been painted on the surface, she said it was unlikely that the color would have been so vibrant.

Because of the ancient technique that the Romans used "we get to enjoy it today," she added.

Elsewhere in the room, which is around 86 square feet in size, archeologists found building materials, suggesting a redecoration was planned.

A collection of oyster shells was also discovered, likely waiting to be "finely ground to add to plaster and mortar," the news release said.

240612-pompei-mb-1017-3c6dd3.jpg Tourists at the Pompeii archaeological excavations last month.Marco Cantile / LightRocket via Getty Images

The excavation is part of a much larger project to help protect and preserve the excavated and unexcavated areas of Pompeii, which already include more than 13,000 rooms in 1,070 houses and apartments — deemed the largest dig in a generation.

Pompeii and nearby Herculaneum were seaside resorts favored by wealthy Romans when they were devastated by the eruption, which lasted for more than 24 hours and had the power of many thousands of nuclear bombs.

Last month, in what archeologists described as one of the most important in years, a series of striking paintings showing Helen of Troy and other Greek heroes were revealed to the public for the first time.

Discovered inside what archaeologists described as a "spectacular dining room" with unusual black walls, the remarkably well-preserved frescoes were inspired by the Trojan War, as recounted by the Greek poet Homer and featured Paris and Helen of Troy among others.

Zuchtriegel said at least 20 or 30 guests could easily have fit into the room for lavish banquets and discussion about "culture, gossip and politics."

240611-pompeii-blue-room-detail-2-se-428p-f228b3.jpg On the central wall are allegories of agriculture and cattle breeding.Parco Pompei / Abaca Press/Sipa USA via AP

He added that the paintings "were almost like invitations to discuss Greek myths."

With a third of the site still buried, archaeologists are still trying to put the pieces of the Pompeii puzzle back together.

"Two thousand years ago, someone looked at it for the last time," said the site's director Zuchtriegel. "Now we're the first ones to look at it again."


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SteevieGee
Professor Silent
1  SteevieGee    4 weeks ago

I went to Pompeii about 7 years ago.  There's still a lot there that hasn't been excavated.  The ash that buried the city has preserved these frescoes and mosaics for almost 2000 years.  I only question the Italian government's ability to continue to preserve it long term now that it's being excavated.  Once you dig it up it becomes your responsibility to conserve and protect it not only from the weather but from light which would have faded the brilliant colors we're seeing in the pictures to nothing by now.

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
1.1  devangelical  replied to  SteevieGee @1    4 weeks ago

they can filter the building openings with glass that reflects UV light. I'd be more worried about morons scratching their initials in it.

 
 
 
Thomas
Masters Guide
1.2  Thomas  replied to  SteevieGee @1    4 weeks ago
There's still a lot there that hasn't been excavated. 

The commercial cow or the preservation? 

Frescos are far more durable that simple surface art, though. But I think that the question of continuation is a valid one. 

 
 
 
SteevieGee
Professor Silent
1.2.1  SteevieGee  replied to  Thomas @1.2    4 weeks ago
The commercial cow or the preservation?

This is a huge site.  They're serious about preserving it.  I don't remember what it cost to go in but it certainly wasn't free with all proceeds going to preservation of the site.

 
 
 
evilone
Professor Guide
2  evilone    4 weeks ago

We are seeing many amazing discoveries these days. There was an article last week about testing the genetics of Mayan sacrifices. All this stuff is incredibly interesting.

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
2.1  devangelical  replied to  evilone @2    4 weeks ago

that building was probably a brothel...

 
 
 
Thomas
Masters Guide
2.2  Thomas  replied to  evilone @2    4 weeks ago
There was an article last week about testing the genetics of Mayan sacrifices.

You have to juxtapose the legitimate scientific and anthropologic interest with the "How much do we want to dig up this mass grave??" Not an easy choice. 

 
 
 
evilone
Professor Guide
2.2.1  evilone  replied to  Thomas @2.2    4 weeks ago
Not an easy choice. 

I'm sure it's not an easy choice. They were tossed in a ceremonial pit along with animals and ceremonial objects. What they found so interesting:

However, our new genetic results of remains found in the chultún showed each of the individuals was male. Previous analyses showed that about half of the sacrificed individuals were between the ages of 3 to 6 years, and none had reached adulthood.

,

Even more intriguing was the discovery of two pairs of identical twins in the Chultún. Identical twins occur in only around 0.4% of pregnancies, and so observing two pairs of twins out of 64 individuals is unlikely to happen by chance. Hence, we think they may have been specially selecting twins for these sacrifices.
 
 
 
Drakkonis
Professor Guide
3  Drakkonis    4 weeks ago

Fascinating! I'm surprised by the paintings on the walls. More advanced than I would have guessed for that period. They seem more advanced than even many examples of medieval styles that come to mind, as if painting had regressed since Pompeii. I really hope some climate activist doesn't decide throwing tomato soup on such a find would seem like a good idea to them. 

The thing that comes most readily to mind, for me at least, thinking about Pompeii, is how suddenly it happened. Apparently, this was a place that existed for and catered to the most well to do. The people who had it easiest in life. I wonder what they thought about as it was happening. Did their life flash before their eyes? Did all the unimportant things they might have spent so much time on seem like wasted opportunities? Did they have time to think about what they might have done differently? Was there a sudden understanding of the value of life or thoughts to that effect? And how often do I think about that sort of thing, being safe where I am right now? How close is unexpected disaster to me? How much am I taking for granted because I think I'm safe and that this will continue to be the case? The people of Pompeii are gone, but they still have something to teach, I think. 

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
3.1  TᵢG  replied to  Drakkonis @3    4 weeks ago
I really hope some climate activist doesn't decide throwing tomato soup on such a find would seem like a good idea to them.

Why would a climate activist do this?

 
 
 
Just Jim NC TttH
Professor Principal
3.1.1  Just Jim NC TttH  replied to  TᵢG @3.1    4 weeks ago

Same reason they did it to old paintings.........they don't like oil.

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
3.1.2  TᵢG  replied to  Just Jim NC TttH @3.1.1    4 weeks ago

A fine example of painting reality with a broad sweeping generalization brush.   

 
 
 
Just Jim NC TttH
Professor Principal
3.1.3  Just Jim NC TttH  replied to  TᵢG @3.1.2    4 weeks ago

What rock have you been living under? WOW. Don’t remember any of the anti oil folks pulling that shit?

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
3.1.4  TᵢG  replied to  Just Jim NC TttH @3.1.3    4 weeks ago

Apparently I need to spell this out for you.

You are looking at an extremely tiny sliver of those who seek to address our climate crisis and making a sweeping generalization that tossing tomato soup on oil paintings is a defining characteristic of this group.

To wit, your comment is ridiculous.

 
 
 
Drakkonis
Professor Guide
3.1.5  Drakkonis  replied to  TᵢG @3.1.2    4 weeks ago
A fine example of painting reality with a broad sweeping generalization brush.

If I had intended to paint with a broad brush I would have spoken of climate activists, plural, rather than singularly, as I did. As you so often tell other people, read what I wrote. 

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
3.1.6  devangelical  replied to  TᵢG @3.1.4    4 weeks ago
Apparently I need to spell this out for you.[]

 
 
 
Just Jim NC TttH
Professor Principal
3.1.7  Just Jim NC TttH  replied to  TᵢG @3.1.4    4 weeks ago

[]

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
3.1.8  TᵢG  replied to  Drakkonis @3.1.5    4 weeks ago

You quoted my comment to Jim.   I was replying to what he wrote, not what you wrote.   Why not reply to my comment to you?

I agreed with your comment (voted it up even) except for the sentence I quoted:

Drakk@3 ☞ I really hope some climate activist doesn't decide throwing tomato soup on such a find would seem like a good idea to them. 

I then merely asked you to clarify what you meant.   Note that my question was also singular:

TiG@3.1Why would a climate activist do this?

After agreeing with your comment, with this one exception, and merely asking for clarification, I receive two (actually three) snarky replies and no clarification.   

 
 
 
Drakkonis
Professor Guide
3.1.9  Drakkonis  replied to  TᵢG @3.1.8    4 weeks ago
Why not reply to my comment to you?

I did not answer because a) Jim already answered the question so it would have been redundant. b) Why such a climate activist acts is clear enough but why they choose a specific act is best answered by them. I would only be guessing. c) Your response to Jim indicates you are most likely looking for a fight, since what he said is self-evidently true.

You quoted my comment to Jim.   I was replying to what he wrote, not what you wrote.

Yes, but his reply to you was based on what I wrote. Based on that context, the response he gave you did not indicate he was painting with a broad brush but rather talking about the people I was talking about. The ones who would and have thrown tomato soup (or whatever it was) on artworks. 

Alternatively, he was painting with a broad stroke and not within the context I was, but there was no way to determine that based on what he said to you. You could only assume it, which I find odd, given your current tac. You ask me a clarifying question (although I'm not certain what needed clarifying) on something that has an obvious answer, as given above, yet when Jim makes what could be an ambiguous statement you don't ask a clarifying question. That is why you seem to me to be looking for something to fight about. Your question to me didn't make sense and your response to Jim was based on an assumption, not what he actually said. 

I hope this answers your concerns. 

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
3.1.10  TᵢG  replied to  Drakkonis @3.1.9    4 weeks ago

Instead of simply answering my question to you, you write a long comment mostly about Jim's response that accuses me (twice even) of looking for a fight.

I agreed with your original post, and even voted it up.   But one part made no sense so I asked a simple, non-leading question.   

You are the one looking for a fight.


In short, your answer is that because two climate activists threw tomato sauce on a Van Gogh painting you choose to gratuitously discredit all climate activists.

My response then is that I think you are being ridiculously unfair to climate activists.

 
 
 
Drakkonis
Professor Guide
3.1.11  Drakkonis  replied to  TᵢG @3.1.10    4 weeks ago
My response then is that I think you are being ridiculously unfair to climate activists.

Thank you for sharing that. 

 
 
 
Drakkonis
Professor Guide
3.1.12  Drakkonis  replied to  TᵢG @3.1.10    3 weeks ago
My response then is that I think you are being ridiculously unfair to climate activists.

I am not providing this link to rub something in your face. I'm providing it because I believe it shows the current realities concerning the subject and that I am not being unfair, just realistic. 

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
3.1.13  TᵢG  replied to  Drakkonis @3.1.12    3 weeks ago

Drakk, the actions of a few nutcases should not be extrapolated to the whole.

You would and do object to the actions of a few radical Christian religious beliefs (e.g. the 'prosperity gospel') being extrapolated to be representative of all Christian religious beliefs.   So surely you would apply that very same principle in all other aspects of reality.

 
 
 
Drakkonis
Professor Guide
3.1.14  Drakkonis  replied to  TᵢG @3.1.13    3 weeks ago
Drakk, the actions of a few nutcases should not be extrapolated to the whole.

Agreed. No one in the conversation to date has accused all climate activists of doing this or even approving of it. This has already been covered. Why are you still trying to make it seem as if that is what is being done here? My original statement...

I really hope some climate activist doesn't decide throwing tomato soup on such a find would seem like a good idea to them. 

... was as much genuine concern about a real possibility as it was a dig at those who think doing such things is a good thing. It is not my fault or responsibility that some do such things. The most recent event, being Stonehenge, shows that not only is the concern realistic, but that nothing, apparently, is too sacred to be left off their list of targets. 

 
 
 
Texan1211
Professor Principal
3.1.15  Texan1211  replied to  Drakkonis @3.1.14    3 weeks ago
really hope some climate activist doesn't decide throwing tomato soup on such a find would seem like a good idea to them.

Sounds perfectly sane and logical 

Not sure why anyone would dispute that

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
3.1.16  TᵢG  replied to  Drakkonis @3.1.14    3 weeks ago

If you are concerned that some extremely tiny sliver minority of all worldwide climate activists are going to deface ancient discoveries in Pompei they you should be more concerned that some random vandals (leaving open the motivation) would deface it with graffiti (or bombs).

My question resulted from surprise that of all the things that could happen to this relic by malicious actors you oddly focused on climate activists.   

And also, again, here is a situation where I agreed with pretty much everything you wrote, voted up your comment, but then made the apparent mistake of merely questioning why you inserted this seemingly out of place concern about climate activists.   

Seems like a hair trigger is in full effect.

 
 
 
Drakkonis
Professor Guide
3.1.17  Drakkonis  replied to  TᵢG @3.1.16    3 weeks ago
My question resulted from surprise that of all the things that could happen to this relic by malicious actors you oddly focused on climate activists.

Dunno what to say, TiG. I made my statement based on the fact that people associated with climate activism are doing this kind of thing rather often. Perhaps more often than you may realize. You have a problem with it, thinking it's unfair, even when not even two days after I made the comment, climate activists deface Stonehenge. Somehow, you claim that it is odd to pick climate activists as the most likely perpetrators... in spite of the evidence. So, I'm not changing what I said and I certainly don't think I was being unfair or that I'm being unreasonable. You're welcome to your opinion, of course, but there's probably nowhere else to go from here, don't you think? 

Also, thanks for voting up my comment but I'm not sure why you keep mentioning it. That is, it seems you feel it has some relevance to whether my statement is fair or whatever but I'm not seeing how.  

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
3.1.18  TᵢG  replied to  Drakkonis @3.1.17    3 weeks ago
... but I'm not sure why you keep mentioning it

To illustrate that my comment to you was merely a question about a portion of your comment that seemed out of place.   Look at all the shit that has taken place simply because I sought clarification on something that seemed odd to me.

 
 
 
Gsquared
Professor Principal
3.2  Gsquared  replied to  Drakkonis @3    4 weeks ago
I'm surprised by the paintings on the walls. More advanced than I would have guessed for that period.  They seem more advanced than even many examples of medieval styles that come to mind, as if painting had regressed since Pompeii.

In fact, it did.  After the fall of the western Roman Empire, Western European society went into a steep economic, intellectual and cultural decline, which is why Medieval Society is also often referred to as the Dark Ages.  Much scientific knowledge was lost.  Fortunately, it was preserved by Islamic cultures in the east and North Africa. 

The painter Giotto set the stage for the Renaissance in his pioneering use of perspective.  Before Giotto, Medieval art was mostly flat and two dimensional.

With the beginning of the Renaissance (French for "rebirth") the Western European intellectual classes rediscovered classical, i.e. Greek and Roman, art and ideals and slowly began the progress toward modern society.

 
 
 
Drakkonis
Professor Guide
3.2.1  Drakkonis  replied to  Gsquared @3.2    3 weeks ago
In fact, it did.

Thanks for the info. Pretty much what I suspected. Looking at the difference between the Pompeii art and later midieval examples, they sure lost a lot. You seem to know your art : )

 
 
 
Gsquared
Professor Principal
3.2.2  Gsquared  replied to  Drakkonis @3.2.1    3 weeks ago

Just as an aside, in the 20th Century many abstract artists began exploring the flat space of the canvas and two dimensional surfaces instead of creating three dimensional images, using shapes, lines, forms, colors and textures without attempting to represent reality.

 
 
 
Freefaller
Professor Quiet
3.3  Freefaller  replied to  Drakkonis @3    4 weeks ago

I doubt they thought about much more than packing up what they could and getting the heck outta there

 
 
 
Gsquared
Professor Principal
4  Gsquared    4 weeks ago

Just beautiful.  What an amazing find.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
5  Kavika     4 weeks ago

Stuning.

 
 
 
Thomas
Masters Guide
5.1  Thomas  replied to  Kavika @5    4 weeks ago

I had fully intended to make a cogent comment, but, after getting here, I cannot remember what that comment was... 

 
 
 
shona1
Professor Quiet
6  shona1    4 weeks ago

Arvo.. truly a fascinating place where literally history is frozen in time...

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
6.1  devangelical  replied to  shona1 @6    4 weeks ago

those 2 piles of ashes on the floor up against the wall were the janitors ...

 
 
 
Freefaller
Professor Quiet
6.1.1  Freefaller  replied to  devangelical @6.1    4 weeks ago

Looks more like leftover ash and pumice still to be cleaned out than bodies to me

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
6.1.2  devangelical  replied to  Freefaller @6.1.1    4 weeks ago

that was the day crew, the next crew in swept up a bit.

it was an inside joke for the person I was addressing. besides, who's to say what's left of guido, maria, or vito aren't in one of those piles...

 
 
 
Freefaller
Professor Quiet
6.1.3  Freefaller  replied to  devangelical @6.1.2    3 weeks ago

Sorry didn't realize it was an inside joke.  That being said to date 121 bodies have been found in the ruins of Pompeii and all were recognizable as humans from their remains and not piles of ash.  The pumice and lahars that accompanied the eruption did a remarkably good job of preserving them

 
 
 
Split Personality
Professor Guide
7  Split Personality    4 weeks ago

They now say there is evidence that a few people survived the initial pyroclastic event.

The direction of the blast and the placement of the homes favored a few well placed villa's first floors.

All of the two story buildings lost the second floor but not necessarily the first floor.

Excavation of Pompei and Herculaneum started in 1738. Pompei is only 75% excavated.

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
7.1  devangelical  replied to  Split Personality @7    4 weeks ago
They now say there is evidence that a few people survived the initial pyroclastic event.

definitely a survival of the fittest situation.

 
 
 
Split Personality
Professor Guide
7.1.1  Split Personality  replied to  devangelical @7.1    3 weeks ago

There were actually a few safe rooms found where none of the contents were burned, wine was still in the containers etc.

 
 

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