A team of archaeologists has uncovered 13 terracotta figurines at Pompeii. The discovery was made during excavations of a domus adjacent to the famous “House of Leda and the Swan” along the Via del Vesuvio.
Pompeii, a once-thriving Roman city near Naples, met its tragic end during the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in CE 79. Buried under layers of volcanic ash and pumice, the preserved remnants continue to yield valuable clues about the lives and beliefs of its ancient inhabitants.
The recent findings, located in what is believed to be the decorated atrium of the domus, include 13 terracotta figurines, each approximately 15 centimeters in height. Among them, recognizable human figures stand alongside symbolic representations such as a walnut, an almond, the head of a clay rooster, and a glass pine cone. These symbolic elements, hint at a deeper narrative related to the life cycle of the seasons and the fertility of the earth.
According to researchers, these figurines may be linked to the myth of Cybele and Attis, a poignant tale of the Phrygian great mother goddess’s tragic love for a mortal. Attis, unaware of Cybele’s love, ultimately meets a tragic end, driven to madness and self-castration due to Cybele’s jealousy.
The room’s walls were adorned with frescoes that had emerged during the ongoing excavation and restoration work. The sculptures were found upright on a horizontal surface, possibly a shelf, protruding from the pumice at a height exceeding 2 meters above ground level.
While the tradition of nativity scenes is more commonly associated with recent history, the placement of the figurines, along with the additional items suggests a ritualistic purpose. Experts believe these ancient artifacts were part of a symbolic practice embedded in the cultural fabric of Pompeii.
The excavation has been uncovering not only the House of Leda but also two additional domus dwellings to the north and south. The House of Leda, initially excavated between 2018 and 2019, has revealed a finely frescoed room adorned with roundels featuring depictions of elegantly refined female faces.
The ongoing work aims to consolidate and stabilize the excavation site’s edges, preparing for future public access.