Amazing Artefacts: Box of ‘Charms’ from Ancient Pompeii

📸 Archaeological Park of Pompeii

A boxful of amulets, charms and ‘exotic’ pendants from the Roman city of Pompeii may have been a sorcery kit. What could be more enchanting than that?

When archaeologists were excavating a room in the Garden House – a luxury villa in Pompeii’s Regio V – they found a boxful of miniature artefacts, and the discovery is as intriguing as it is enchanting.

Although the box itself had long-since rotted away, the contents (and two bronze hinges) were still there – preserved in the ash from the volcanic eruption that engulfed the city in 79 A.D.

The tiny treasure trove contains around 100 little objects, including bone buttons, beads, carved scarab beetles, miniature penises, crystals, tiny skulls, shells, teeth, bird wings, little dolls, a closed fist, and a figure of Harpocrates – the Egyptian child god.

📸 Archaeological Park of Pompeii

But what are they for? And who did it belong to? According to Massimo Osanna, General Director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, the iconography suggests that they may have been a kit used for fortune telling, fertility, and to bring good luck.

Others aren’t so sure; it could of course simply have been a cheap box of jewellery, or a personal collection of precious items and trinkets – one of the frustrations of archaeology is that we can never know for sure.

But either way, whether or not its contents were used for ‘magic’, you can’t help but feel that there is something pretty ‘enchanting’ about this little box of tricks…

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Written by Maiya Pina-Dacier

Head of Community at DigVentures, Maiya digs with a trowel in one hand, and a Twitter feed in the other. She reports on all our discoveries live from the trenches, and keeps our Site Hut full of the latest archaeology news. Got a story? Just drop her a line...

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