Out of the ashes of Pompeii, archaeologists recently pulled up a time capsule, though only the bronze hinges remained of what is being described as a “sorceress’ toolkit.”
Inside were a collection of around 100 little objects: two mirrors, tiny skulls, scarab beetles, bone-carved objects like buttons, bells, and little fists, decorative elements made of amber, carnelian, and bronze, carved images of men and satyrs, and of course, miniature phallic amulets.
All in all it’s everything your average sorceress could need on the job, which archaeologists believe were to tell fortunes, divine pregnancies, conduct fertility rites, and ward off bad luck.
“They are objects of everyday life in the female world and are extraordinary because they tell micro-stories, biographies of the inhabitants of the city who tried to escape the eruption” states Pomeii General Director Massimo Osanna.
“In the same house, we discovered a room with ten victims, including women and children, and now we are trying to establish kinship relationships, thanks to DNA analysis. Perhaps the precious box belonged to one of these victims.”
The box containing the toolkit was found in the Garden House in Regio V, a luxurious villa which also included some highly sexualized friezes on the walls, such as the myth of Queen Leda and the Swan, and a fresco of Priapus, the god of fertility.
Early hypotheses are that the owner of the objects was not of status and could even have been a slave.
The lack of gold or precious stones among the trinkets suggests this, as the Pompeiians adored the yellow metal.
Speaking with Italian news agency Ansa, Osanna theorized the objects belonged a kind of Roman love doctor, but that’s pure speculation.
The toolkit will soon be on display in the Palestra Grande on the Pompeii site.
It’s fascinating that, even though most of us grew up learning about the city of Pompeii buried under the ash of Vesuvius, major discoveries are still being made there today despite the fact the site is only 163 acres (66 hectares).
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