Perfectly preserved ancient temple 'frozen in time' in volcanic ash for 2,000 years found in the ruined city of Pompeii following the devastating eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD

Perfectly preserved ancient temple ‘frozen in time’ in volcanic ash for 2,000 years found in the ruined city of Pompeii following the devastating eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD

An ancient shrine frozen in time for 2,000 years has been uncovered in the ruined city of Pompeii.

The altar space was perfectly preserved in volcanic ash following the devastating 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which laid waste to the city and killed 16,000 people.

Photos of the site show deep blood-red walls and paintings of bulls, as well as enchanted garden scenes of delicate birds, trees and snakes.

Archaeologists described the shrine, known as a lararium, as ‘exceptional’, and are now excavating the ruins to uncover more about the people who used it.

In ancient Roman times, lararia were altar spaces at the entrances of homes of the well-to-do where offerings and prayers were made to the gods.

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Pictured is a painting of a board on a blood-red wall at the newly uncovered Pompeii site. The shrine has remained frozen in time for 2,000 years

Massimo Osanna, head of the Pompeii archaeological site, described the discovery as a ‘marvelous and enigmatic room that now must be studied at length.’

The room, which has not yet been fully excavated, is embedded in the wall of a small house and features paintings of Roman gods key to household rituals.

Paintings of animals in an enchanted garden scene are typical of Roman illusionistic style, with a peacock drawn along the bottom of a wall to give the appearance it was walking in the real garden.

One wall painting depicts a man with the head of a dog, which experts suggest could be a Romanised version of the Egyptian god Anubis.

Shrines were common to Roman households, Professor Ingrid Rowland, a historian at the University of Notre Dame, told the New York Times.

‘Every house had a lararium of some kind, but only the wealthiest people could have afforded a lararium inside a special chamber with a raised pool and sumptuous decorations,’ she said.

This painting of a bird was discovered at a newly uncovered ancient shrine in Pompeii. The altar space was perfectly preserved in volcanic ash following the devastating 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius

Photos of the site show deep blood-red walls and paintings of bulls, as well as enchanted garden scenes of delicate birds, trees and snakes

Shrines were common to Roman households. Beneath the shrine is an altar topped with traces of offerings burnt at the site almost 2,000 years ago

The altar is decorated with paintings of eggs – a Roman symbol of fertility – and it is possible the burnt remains were food offerings that also represented fertility, such as figs, nuts or more eggs, Mr Osanna said

Paintings of animals in an enchanted garden scene are typical of Roman illusionistic style, with a peacock drawn along the bottom of a wall to give the appearance it was walking in the real garden

Pictured is a painting of a horse’s head found at the ancient altar space

Beneath the shrine is an altar topped with traces of offerings burnt at the site almost 2,000 years ago.

The altar is decorated with paintings of eggs – a Roman symbol of fertility – and it is possible the burnt remains were food offerings that also represented fertility, such as figs, nuts or more eggs, Mr Osanna said.

He added that the site was ‘exceptional,’ citing not only ‘the incredible decoration of the wall painting’ but also the fact that it was ‘very well preserved.’

The paintings scattered across the site were preserved in volcanic ash following the infamous eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

Thick layers of rock and ash spewed during the two-day event have blocked sunlight and water from reaching the artefacts below for almost two millennia.

It is thought that ever Pompeii resident died instantly when the town was hit by a 500°C pyroclastic hot surge, with many of the corpses preserved in hunched positions exactly as they died.

The first excavations of the city began in the 18th Century, with many artefacts destroyed or forgotten thanks to clumsy early archaeological practice.

This is in part what makes the latest discovery – which has remained untouched since the day of the eruption – an exceptional find, Mr Osanna said.

Archaeologists described the shrine, known as a lararium, as ‘exceptional’, and are now excavating the ruins to uncover more about the people who used it

In ancient Roman times, lararia were altar spaces at the entrances of homes of the well-to-do where offerings and prayers were made to the gods

This image shows a blood-red wall decorated with paintings of deer, a boar and hunting dogs. Behind the wall archaeologists continue work on excavations

Massimo Osanna, head of the Pompeii archaeological site, described the discovery as a ‘marvelous and enigmatic room that now must be studied at length’

The paintings scattered across the site were preserved in volcanic ash following the infamous eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD

Thick layers of rock and ash spewed during the two-day event have blocked sunlight and water from reaching the artefacts below for almost two millennia

The first excavations of the city began in the 18th Century, with many artefacts destroyed or forgotten thanks to clumsy early archaeological practice

 

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