Archaeologists Uncover Rare Blue Frescoes of an Ancient Sanctuary and Servant Quarters in Pompeii

June 5, 2024

Grace Ebert

All images © Archaeological Park of Pompeii

Archaeologists continue to uncover the area known as Insula 10 of Pompeii’s Regio IX neighborhood, and a recent finding includes a stunning sky-blue sacrarium, a space for ritual and conservation of sacred objects. Brilliant red lines the niches, where statues and other devotional iconography likely stood.

The 8-square-meter room is decorated in the Fourth Style (c. 60–79 C.E.), an intricate aesthetic that was less ornamental than its predecessor but took a more narrative and architectural approach. Adorning the walls are several women donning flower crowns and flowing garments, four of which correspond to the seasons. Two others grasp a plow and pedum, a shepherd’s crook, and are allegories of agriculture and sheep-tending.

Researchers believe the room was used for storage during a larger renovation when Mount Vesuvius erupted. The team uncovered 15 amphorae, two jugs, and two lamps in the space, along with building materials and a pile of empty oyster shells that were likely slated to be ground and added to plaster.


Pompeiians typically reserved blue for the most sacred of spaces, and neither the color nor the accompanying frescoes appear in a discovery nearby. As noted by The History Blog, archaeologists also excavated the servants’ quarters of the villa of Civita Giuliana, a stark contrast to the sacrarium. The room contained a bed, work tools, a basket, rope, and wooden planks, the shapes of which were preserved by volcanic matter, and researchers were able to recreate their forms in plaster. They explain:

As the ash solidified, forming a very solid layer known as “cinerite,” organic material such as human bodies, animals, or wooden objects decayed, leaving a void in the ground. These voids can be filled with plaster during excavation, to regain the original shape from the “negative” impression. A technique that led to extraordinary results in the villa of Civita Giuliana, from the casts of two victims and a horse to those of the modest beds in the servile quarter.

Archaeologists recently shared two videos from the sites, and you can find more tours and views of the ancient city from the Pompeii team on YouTube.




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