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New frescoes found in ash of Pompeii 2,000 years after city wiped out by Mount Vesuvius eruption

Scrolls of Herculaneum | 60 Minutes Archive
Deciphering the ancient scrolls of Herculaneum | 60 Minutes Archive 13:22

A lavish painting of a mythological scene was among several newly discovered frescoes revealed Friday by archaeologists excavating the ancient Roman city of Pompeii.

Still astonishingly colorful some 2,000 years after the city was wiped out by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, the frescoes were unearthed during restoration work around the mansion of the House of Leda.

The most striking depicts a scene from the Greek myth of Phrixus and his twin sister Helle, as they fled their stepmother Ino on a magical ram with the Golden Fleece.

Phrixus sits astride the ram while his sister is seen falling into the water, "two refugees at sea from ancient Greece", noted Gabriel Zuchtriegel, director of the Pompeii archaeological park.

Casa di Leda: dai lavori di messa in sicurezza e restauro emergono altri ambienti e due nuove domus. Tra le decorazioni...

Posted by Pompeii - Parco Archeologico on Friday, March 1, 2024

The fresco is painted as if it were a framed picture, hung on a yellow wall. Others depicting still life images and several portraits of women have also been newly revealed.

Excavations at the House of Leda, which began in the 18th century and were relaunched in 2018, aim to reconstruct a complete plan of the site.

The frescoes are being cleaned to remove the volcanic ash that blanketed Pompeii when Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, and will then be restored.

Many of Pompeii's buildings -- and even some bodies of the estimated 3,000 victims -- were perfectly preserved after the eruption.

Pompeii is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the second most visited tourist site in Italy, after the Colosseum in Rome.

The discovery of the frescoes come just weeks after three researchers won a $700,000 prize for using artificial intelligence to read a 2,000-year-old scroll that was scorched in the Vesuvius eruption.

The Herculaneum papyri consist of about 800 rolled-up Greek scrolls that were carbonized during the 79 CE volcanic eruption that buried the ancient Roman town, according to the organizers of the "Vesuvius Challenge."

The scroll's author was "probably Epicurean philosopher Philodemus," writing "about music, food, and how to enjoy life's pleasures," wrote contest organizer Nat Friedman on social media.

The scrolls were found in a villa thought to be previously owned by Julius Caesar's patrician father-in-law, whose mostly unexcavated property held a library that could contain thousands more manuscripts.

"Some of these texts could completely rewrite the history of key periods of the ancient world," Robert Fowler, a classicist and the chair of the Herculaneum Society, told Bloomberg Businessweek magazine.

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