CLOSE
Press Office of the Superintendence for Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabia
Press Office of the Superintendence for Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabia

Archaeologists Discover Tomb in Pompeii That Predates Vesuvius

Press Office of the Superintendence for Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabia
Press Office of the Superintendence for Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabia

About four centuries before Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE, raining destruction on Pompeii and its neighbor Herculaneum, a woman in her mid to late 30s was entombed at the site. She was buried with more than a dozen decorated vases. Archaeologists from the French Centre Jean Bérard, in nearby Naples, recently unearthed her grave inside the doomed city.

The woman buried in the tomb is thought to have been 35–40 years old when she died.

Her tomb was discovered during the team's investigation of a trio of pottery studios near the necropolis by Herculaneum Gate, which began four years ago. They say the grave is an important example of the funerary practices of pre-Roman Pompeii in the mid 4th century BCE, a crucial time in the region's history, when the battle for control of the peninsula heated up among the Italic tribes.

While Pompeii is deeply associated with Romans, a group called the Samnites, neighbors to the Romans, occupied the area beginning around the 5th century BCE. The woman in the grave is believed to have been Samnite. During the 4th century BCE, around the time of her burial, their heartland was a small but well-positioned segment of what is today south-central Italy, criss-crossed by rivers and mountains. These highlanders warred with many of the other native Italic groups on the peninsula, most notably with the Romans. Though they fought three wars with Roman forces over the course of about 60 years, the Samnites—like the other tribes—were eventually bested and absorbed by the Roman Republic in the late 3rd century BCE.

Visitors observe the newly revealed tomb.

The woman's tomb survived not only Pompeii's destruction but a World War II bombardment in 1943, which damaged slabs of the tomb but not the interior.

"Pompeii continues to be an inexhaustible source of scientific discoveries," Pompeii superintendent Massimo Osanna said in a press statement.

As for the focus of the researchers' investigation—the pottery studios—recent finds add poignant detail to the well-known tragedy of Pompeii. They've unearthed evidence that the potters' kilns were in full swing at the time of the eruption of Vesuvius: specifically, raw clay vessels that didn’t make it into the kilns before disaster struck the ill-fated town.

All images courtesy of the Press Office of the Superintendence for Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabia

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Peter Pfälzner, University of Tübingen
arrow
Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Archaeologists Finally Identify a 4000-Year-Old Lost City in Iraq
Peter Pfälzner, University of Tübingen
Peter Pfälzner, University of Tübingen

In 2016, archaeologists excavating in the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan in Iraq discovered the remnants of a Bronze Age city near the modern village of Bassetki. It was large, and it appeared to have been occupied for more than 1000 years, from around 2200 to 1200 BCE. Ancient Mesopotamia, home to the earliest civilizations on Earth, had many cities. So which one was it?

The mystery remained until recently, when a language expert at the University of Heidelberg translated clay cuneiform tablets unearthed at the site in 2017. The archaeologists had discovered Mardaman, a once-important city mentioned in ancient texts, which had been thought lost to time.

The inscriptions were likely written around 1250 BCE when Mardaman (also called Mardama) was a part of the Assyrian Empire. According to the University of Tübingen archaeologists who unearthed the tablets, they describe the "administrative and commercial affairs" between the citizens of Mardaman and their Assyrian governor Assur-nasir. The account led the researchers to believe that the area where the tablets were recovered was once the governor's palace.

Excavation site in Iraq.
Peter Pfälzner, University of Tübingen

Situated on trade routes connecting Mesopotamia, Anatolia (modern Turkey), and Syria, Mardaman was a bustling commercial hub in its day. It was conquered and rebuilt several times, but after it was toppled by the Turukkaeans from the neighboring Zagros Mountains sometime in the 18th century BCE, it was never mentioned again in ancient texts. Experts had assumed that marked the end of Marmadan. This latest discovery shows that the city recovered from that dark period, and still existed 500 years later.

"The cuneiform texts and our findings from the excavations in Bassetki now make it clear that that was not the end," lead archeologist Peter Pfälzner said in a press statement. "The city existed continuously and achieved a final significance as a Middle Assyrian governor's seat between 1250 and 1200 BCE."

This lost chapter of history may never have been uncovered if the clay tablets were stored any other way. Archeologists found the 92 slabs in a pottery vessel that had been sealed with a thick layer of clay, perhaps to preserve the contents for future generations. The state in which they were found suggests they were stashed away shortly after the surrounding building was destroyed.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Ben Curtis, AFP/Getty Images
arrow
Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
King Tut's Tomb Doesn't Contain Hidden Rooms After All
Ben Curtis, AFP/Getty Images
Ben Curtis, AFP/Getty Images

When Howard Carter first entered King Tut's tomb in 1922, there was a lot to uncover. Unlike most royal tombs of the ancient Egyptian kings, Tut's had remained sealed and untouched for centuries, providing a pristine treasure trove for those who would eventually stumble upon it. Now, nearly a century later, archaeologists are accepting the idea that King Tut's tomb may have no more secrets left to reveal: New radar scans show that there are no hidden rooms beyond the main burial chamber, NBC News reports.

The theory that Tut's tomb contains secret rooms first emerged in 2015. British archaeologist Nicholas Reeves claimed that high-definition laser scans conducted by Japanese and American scientists hinted at the existence of a second tomb on the other side of the chamber's walls, and that the hidden tomb possibly belonged to Queen Nefertiti, Tutankhamun's stepmother. The theory sparked excitement in Egyptology circles, but its popularity was short-lived. Radar experts cast doubts on the research saying that what appeared to be a wall or a room could easily be a geologic feature. Archaeologists and Egyptologists began calling for more evidence.

The newest study on the matter will likely debunk the hidden tomb theory for good. According to findings by Italian researchers presented at the fourth International Tutankhamun Conference in Cairo, ground-penetrating radar shows conclusively that there are no hidden rooms or corridors adjacent to Tut's tomb. The new scan represents the most comprehensive radar survey of the area ever conducted.

Even without hidden rooms, Tut's tomb and the artifacts it contained make up one of the world's most impressive archaeological sites. The public will be able to view 4500 of the young ruler's possessions when they go on display at a new museum in Cairo in 2022.

[h/t NBC News]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios