An inscription of the tomb suggests that its owner, a freed slave named Marcus Venerius Secundio, helped organise performances in Greek in Pompeii, archaeologists say.
Archaeologists have uncovered a
well-preserved skeleton at a burial site in Pompeii which has
shed new light on funeral rites and cultural activity in the
doomed, ancient Roman city, officials said on Tuesday.
The body of the man, believed to be in his 60s, was found in
a tomb which dated to the final decades of Pompeii, before it
was destroyed by the Vesuvius volcano in 79 AD.
A commemorative inscription named the man as Marcus Venerius
Secundio and made a reference to theatre performances at Pompeii
in Greek – the first time archaeologists have found direct
evidence of plays performed there in Greek. Experts said it was the first confirmation that Greek, the language of culture in the Mediterranean, was used alongside Latin.
“That performances in Greek were organised is evidence of
the lively and open cultural climate which characterised ancient
Pompeii,” said Gabriel Zuchtriegel, director of Pompeii’s
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The park said in a statement that it was one of the best
preserved skeletons ever found at the site and showed signs of
partial mummification, with hair and an ear still evident on the
skull. Two cremation urns were also found in the tomb enclosure.
Adults were normally cremated in the city at the time, so
the burial of Marcus Venerius is seen as highly unusual.
Archaeologists are investigating whether the man might have
been embalmed ahead of burial. Certain textiles are known to
have been used in embalming and archaeologists have found
fragments of what might be fabric at the site.
Marcus Venerius’s name appears in another city archive,
which identified him as a public slave and a custodian of the
Temple of Venus. He was later freed and his imposing tomb
suggests he had reached a certain social and economic status
before his death.
The burial site is not currently accessible to visitors and
lies beyond the city limits. Pompeii officials said they were
looking into how they could open the area to the public.
Frozen in time
Pompeii, 23 km (14 miles) southeast of Naples, was home to
about 13,000 people when the volcanic eruption buried it under
ash, pumice pebbles and dust, freezing it in time.
The site was not discovered until the 16th century and organised excavations began around 1750. A recent burst of archaeological activity, aimed at halting years of decay and neglect, has enabled scholars to uncover areas that have previously remained buried under the volcanic debris.
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