Stunning frescoes depicting peacocks,writhing snakes and a wild boar being hunted by dogs have been discovered in Pompeii, 2,000 years after the Roman city was buried by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius.
The colourful frescoes were discovered in a villa dubbed “The House of the Enchanted Garden” for the variety of animals and plants that decorate its walls, which was partially excavated in the 19th century.
But the frescoed room had remained undiscovered until now.
The blood-red paint that adorns the walls is almost as lustrous as before the villa was smothered in volcanic ash and pumice in AD 79.
Archeologists found an altar in a niche in one of the walls, guarded by two serpents to ward off evil spirits and demons.
“It is a marvelous and enigmatic space,” said Massimo Osanna, the director of the archeological site. “It will need to be studied in great detail.”
The frescoes include the figure of a horse, birds in flight and a strange human figure with a dog’s head.
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The remains of the villa came to light during the latest phase of excavations at the ancient site, located south of Naples.
As part of the Great Pompeii Project, areas that have never before been dug, or which were partially excavated in the 19th century, are being explored.
The main room is believed to be a lararium, a room designed to hold the images of the lares, divine protectors of the villa and the Roman family that occupied it.
Marble or bronze statues of gods would have been placed in the niche. Archeologists found burn marks on the stone altar, evidence of the offerings that the household would have made to honour their gods.
“This lararium is one of the most elegant to have emerged at Pompeii,” archeologists said in a press release.
The two giant snakes that are depicted on the wall were not only to ward off demons but also “symbols of prosperity and good auspices.”
The image of two dogs chasing a fierce black boar “seems to allude symbolically to the victory of the forces of good over the forces of evil.”
In a separate discovery announced on Friday, archeologists uncovered a remarkably well-preserved tomb from an ancient Greek colony 12 miles outside Naples.
The tomb, which dates back to the second century BC, was found at Cumae, a colony established by the ancient Greeks in the eighth century BC.
Paintings on the walls depict a naked slave holding a silver jug and banqueting scenes.