Rare and expensive blue shrine discovered in Pompeii after almost 2,000 years

POMPEI, Italy — Buried and unseen for nearly 2,000 years, a sacred room has been unearthed in Pompeii with walls painted blue, a rare and expensive color in the Roman city.

Describing it as “a very unusual thing for Pompeii,” site director Gabriel Zuchtriegel told NBC News during a tour of the newly excavated site. this blue “was the most expensive color” because it was difficult to achieve.

A rare blue room discovered in Pompeii with transport amphorae, left, and a pile of already spent oyster shells on the entrance threshold, which were probably added to the plaster and mortar mixtures when crushed.Pompeii Park / Abaca Press/Sipa USA via AP

“It had to be imported from Egypt, the eastern Mediterranean and beyond. So it was expensive, and if you wanted to have something in blue, you had to pay more,” he said. Red, yellow and black are much easier to produce because natural materials like stone and sand are widely available, he added.

The surprising discovery was first revealed to NBC News on Tuesday.

It comes from Block No. 10 of the ninth section of Pompeii, a never-excavated area of ​​the city destroyed during the eruption of the Vesuvius volcano in 79 AD.

Decorated with female figures representing the four seasons and depictions of agriculture and sheep herding, the room was “interpreted as a sacrarium, a sanctuary devoted to ritual activities and the storage of sacred objects,” the park said archaeological site of Pompeii in a press release. .

Blue “was the most expensive color,” said site director Gabriel Zuchtriegel.Angela Neil/NBC News

For wealthy politicians and business owners, an elaborate classical painting was a centerpiece and talking point at receptions.

Those who painted the rooms blue were saying, “I can afford something that not everyone can afford,” Zuchtriegel said.

Mishael Quraishi, an archeology student, is one of several Massachusetts Institute of Technology students working at the site. Using specially adapted night vision goggles and portable scanners, they study the new discovery.

Calling the piece “magnificent,” she said it was truly rare to see such large quantities of Egyptian blue in a concentrated area.

It was “the first synthetically made pigment in human history,” said Quraishi, 21, adding that it was made from a copper source “so brass filings could be an option “.

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