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Pompeii Gives Up a 'Sorcerer's Treasure Trove'

So much for good-luck charms
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 13, 2019 10:05 AM CDT
These items made from bone and gemstones were kept in a wooden box at the time of Mount Vesuvius' eruption.   (Archaeological Park of Pompeii)

(Newser) – There was perhaps no better place for good-luck charms than Pompeii circa AD79. Too bad they didn't quite work. Archaeologists combing the ancient Roman city discovered dozens of charms within a "sorcerer's treasure trove," encased in hardened volcanic material from Mount Vesuvius' eruption that year, per ABC Australia. The crystals, mirrors, amber and glass beads, turquoise fertility symbols, amethyst amulets from the Middle East, and bronze bells to be rung to prevent bad luck would've been contained in a wooden box, though only the bronze hinges remain, per the BBC and Telegraph. As no gold was found, it's believed the box belonged to a servant or slave of the dwelling known as the House of the Garden, where the bodies of 10 people, including children, were also found.

"Perhaps the precious box belonged to one of these victims," says archaeologist Massimo Osanna. It's speculated that the area of discovery may have been servants' quarters. The "objects of everyday life in the female world"—including a human skull carved from bone; small carved phalluses; and a glass bead engraved with the head of the Roman god of wine, fertility, and ritual madness—were likely used for casting spells and for rituals related to fertility, seduction, childbirth, and marriage, per the Telegraph, though Osanna says further study will aim to identify "their exact significance and function." Archaeologists will also attempt to establish familial connections between the victims through DNA analysis. (A previous discovery in the same house could rewrite Pompeii's history.)

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