Archaeologists have discovered a tomb in Pompeii containing one of the site’s best-preserved skeletons to date—and the partially mummified remains offer fascinating insight into the previously unknown role that Greek culture played in the ancient Roman city.
An inscription on the dead man’s tomb identifies him as Marcus Venerius Secundio and appears to indicate that he helped stage performances of Greek plays. It says the deceased “gave Greek and Latin ,” or performances.
“It is the first clear evidence of performances at Pompeii in the Greek language,” Gabriel Zuchtriegel, director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, said in a statement. “That performances in Greek were organized is evidence of the lively and open cultural climate which characterized ancient Pompeii.”
The partially mummified body still sports white hair and part of an ear, as well as surviving fabric fragments. The tomb was essentially a hermetically sealed room, helping preserve the body over the centuries.
Wax tablet records kept by Pompeian banker Cecilius Giocondu note that Secundio was enslaved and served in the Temple of Venus. But he rose through the social ranks once he was freed, joining the Augustales priesthood, an imperial cult. Secundio died around the age of 60, buried in a large and impressive tomb befitting his improved social status.
Found in the necropolis of Porta Sarno, a portion of the city not currently open to the public, the tomb dates to the final decades before the 79 A.D. eruption of Mount Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii. It’s an unusual discovery because adult bodies were usually cremated in ancient Rome. The tomb also contains two cinerary urns, one of which is made of blue glass and is marked “Novia Amabilis,” which means “kind wife.”
Other recent discoveries in Pompeii include a , or ancient fast food restaurant that just opened to the public, and amulets that may have belonged to a female sorcerer.
See more photos from the discovery below.