Category Archives: ITALY

Roman treasure discovered by chance: Hundreds of ancient gold coins hidden for centuries

Roman treasure discovered by chance: Hundreds of ancient gold coins hidden for centuries

A precious cache of ancient Roman coins discovered on the site of a former theatre in northern Italy is being investigated by archaeologists. The coins, at least 300 of them, date back to the late Roman imperial era and were discovered in the basement of the Cressoni Theatre in Como, north of Milan, in a soapstone jar.

An absolutely astonishing find that will provide significant information about several Roman emperors.

“We do not yet know in detail the historical and cultural significance of the find,” said Culture Minister Alberto Bonisoli in a press release. “But that area is proving to be a real treasure for our archaeology. A discovery that fills me with pride.”

Whoever placed the jar in that place “buried it in such a way that in case of danger they could go and retrieve it,” said Maria Grazia Facchinetti, a numismatist — or expert in rare coins — at a press conference.

27 of the Roman coins were put on display during the reveal of the discovery.

“They were stacked in rolls similar to those seen in the bank today,” she said, adding the coins have engravings about emperors Honorius, Valentinian III, Leon I, Antonio, and Libio Severo “so they don’t go beyond 474 AD.”

“All of this makes us think that the owner is not a private subject, rather it could be a public bank or deposit,” Facchinetti added.

Archaeologists also uncovered a golden bar inside the jar.

According to the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, coins were transferred to the Mibac restoration laboratory in Milan where archaeologists and restorers are examining them.

The ministry did not place a value on the coins. But reports in the Italian media suggest they could be worth millions of dollars.

The historic Cressoni Theater opened in 1807 before transitioning into a cinema and eventually closing in 1997. The site is not far from the Novum Comum forum area, where other important Roman artefacts were discovered, according to the ministry.

The find is one of several surprising discoveries of Roman coins in recent years.

In 2016, archaeologists unearthed a rare 2,000-year-old Roman a gold coin in Jerusalem. The coin featured the face of Nero, the Roman emperor best known for playing the fiddle while Ancient Rome burned, and was likely struck in 56-57 AD.

A quadrillion tons of diamonds lie deep beneath the Earth’s surface
It was discovered at the Mount Zion archaeological dig, south of the Old City of Jerusalem, where a University of North Carolina-Charlotte team was excavating throughout the summer.

That same year, a team of archaeologists unearthed 10 ancient Roman and Ottoman coins from the ruins of a castle in Okinawa, Japan.

Discovering ancient Egypt in the heart of Rome, Italy

Discovering ancient Egypt in the heart of Rome, Italy

Have you ever seen a real mummy? In the Gregorian Egyptian Museum, which is a section of the Vatican’s museums, you will. It is the body of a woman, whose name was probably Amenirdis and it is greatly conserved.

Many are the monuments and rarities coming from Egypt in Roman times, as for instance hieroglyphics, stelae, mummy cases coming from the city of Thebes, canopic jars and ritual objects.

These are just a few of the treasures and wonders you can admire in the shrines located through the corridors in which you will find yourself fascinated. There is a whole part of the museum dedicated to the funeral customs of Ancient Egypt.

Did you know that for ancient Egyptians the death was not the meaning of an end?

Death was not the end of life but the beginning of a new existence. They believed that men had two souls: Ba and Ka. The first one was destined to the afterlife to receive the prize or the punishment concerned, whereas the second one remained with the body to look after it: it was used to put in the graves goods, food, beverages, clothes, cosmetics and all the things that the deceased may need and used during the normal life so that, even in the afterlife, they might survive.

Also, the physical body of the passed ones had to be as conserved as well preserved for the afterlife, and they had to be recognizable, this is why the technique of mummification was used.

The mummification technique had a profound spiritual meaning: the body, once mummified was made incorruptible and spiritualized. Another constant and typical funeral custom of ancient Egypt was to conserve even the organs of the passed ones.

The Canopy jars

The Canopy jars were the four vessels in which the mummified deceased’s organs were conserved. Usually, they were made in alabaster but also in other materials like stone or steel.

The caps are four because they are the representation of the four sons of Horus.

They collaborated with Anubis in the mummification of Osiris’s body, (the sovereign of the realm of the dead) and this is the reason why they became patrons of the canopy jars.

Duamutef, whose jar has a wolf’s head, containing the stomach of the deceased, Hapi, with the head of a monkey, conserving the lungs, Imset, the human head, conserving the liver and the last one Qebehsenuf, with the rapacious head, containing the guts.

The Sacred Vessel

You will find these sculptures too, usually made of wood. They were often used and collocated in tombs to represent positive advice for the deceased in his or her travel. It was a tangible symbol that connected the Ka with life.

Navigation had a huge importance in Egypt: Egyptian people’s life highly depended on the Nile and it was venerated as it was a real and proper God.

A cat from ancient Egypt in Rome

Bast or Bastet is the name of the Egyptian cat goddess, venerated for protection and fertility. In ancient times to kill or injure a cat led to serious penalties and also cats were mummified and this explains how much they were respected and loved by people. So, cats where and are loved even nowadays by people from all over the world, even by the Egyptian Goddess Isis! There a place in Rome was walking just in front of Palazzo Grazioli and looking up you can find a cat statue which was part of the Isis Goddess Temple.

And there is also a “Roman” Pyramid

Discovering ancient Egypt in the heart of Rome, Italy

Rome is well known for its ancient architecture – the Colosseum, Pantheon, Trajan’s Market and the Roman Forum to name a few – but one thing it is not often associated with is pyramids. But right in the heart of Rome, sits a 2,000-year-old pyramid, measuring 30 meters along each side and 35 meters in height. You can’t miss it! Yet very few people have heard of Rome’s Pyramid of Cestius.

The Pyramid of Cestius was built along the Via Ostiensis, an important road in ancient Rome, sometime between 18 and 12 BC. While it is debatable whether the Egyptian pyramids were ever really used as tombs, the pyramid of Cestius most definitely was.

Within the pyramid is a barrel-vaulted burial chamber which, according to the inscriptions on the east and west flanks of the pyramid, housed the body of a Roman politician known as Gaius Cestius Epulo , a tribune, praetor and member of the priesthood. A second inscription announces that the building of this pyramid was completed in 330 days.

Pyramids were royal tombs and this particular custom came to Rome thanks to the Egyptian influence on Rome’s architecture developed after the civil war and Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire.

Archaeologists uncovered entire roman city without digging

Archaeologists uncovered entire roman city without digging

Archaeologists first managed to map a full roman city, Falerii Novi in Italy, using advanced GPRs, which allowed them to reveal surprising information while it remains deep underground. The technology could revolutionise our view of ancient settlements.

The team, from the University of Cambridge and Ghent University, has discovered a bath complex, market, temple, a public monument unlike anything seen before, and even the city’s sprawling network of water pipes. By looking at different depths, the archaeologists can now study how the town evolved over hundreds of years.

The research, published today in Antiquity, harnessed recent advances in GPR technology which make it possible to explore larger areas in higher resolution than ever before. This is likely to have major implications for the study of ancient cities because many cannot be excavated either because they are too large, or because they are trapped under modern structures.

A slice of ground-penetrating radar data from Falerii Novi, revealing the outlines of the town’s buildings.

GPR works like regular radar, bouncing radio waves off objects and using the ‘echo’ to build up a picture at different depths.* By towing their GPR instruments behind a quad bike, the archaeologists surveyed all 30.5 hectares within the city’s walls — Falerii Novi was just under half the size of Pompeii — taking a reading every 12.5cm.

Located 50 km north of Rome and first occupied in 241 BC, Falerii Novi survived into the medieval period (until around AD 700). The team’s GPR data can now start to reveal some of the physical changes experienced by the city at this time. They have already found evidence of stone robbing.

The study also challenges certain assumptions about Roman urban design, showing that Falerii Novi’s layout was less standardised than many other well-studied towns, like Pompeii.

The temple, market building and bath complex discovered by the team are also more architecturally elaborate than would usually be expected in a small city.

In a southern district, just within the city’s walls, GPR revealed a large rectangular building connected to a series of water pipes which lead to the aqueduct.

Remarkably, these pipes can be traced across much of Falerii Novi, running beneath its insulae (city blocks), and not just along its streets, as might normally be expected. The team believes that this structure was an open-air natatio or pool, forming part of a substantial public bathing complex.

Even more unexpectedly, near the city’s north gate, the team identified a pair of large structures facing each other within a porticus duplex (a covered passageway with a central row of columns). They know of no direct parallel but believe these were part of an impressive public monument and contributed to an intriguing sacred landscape on the city’s edge.

Corresponding author, Professor Martin Millett from the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Classics, said:

“The astonishing level of detail which we have achieved at Falerii Novi, and the surprising features that GPR has revealed, suggest that this type of survey could transform the way archaeologists investigate urban sites, as total entities.”

Millett and his colleagues have already used GPR to survey Interamna Lirenas in Italy, and on a lesser scale, Alborough in North Yorkshire, but they now hope to see it deployed on far bigger sites.

“It is exciting and now realistic to imagine GPR being used to survey a major city such as Miletus in Turkey, Nicopolis in Greece or Cyrene in Libya,” Millett said. “We still have so much to learn about Roman urban life and this technology should open up unprecedented opportunities for decades to come.”

The sheer wealth of data produced by such high-resolution mapping does, however, pose significant challenges. Traditional methods of manual data analysis are to time-consuming, requiring around 20 hours to fully document a single hectare. It will be some time before the researchers finish examining Falerii Novi but to speed the process up they are developing new automated techniques.

Falerii Novi is well documented in the historical record, is not covered by modern buildings and has been the subject of decades of analysis using other non-invasive techniques, such as magnetometry, but GPR has now revealed a far more complete picture.

Further information

*GPR is so effective because it relies on the reflection of radio waves off items in the ground. Different materials reflect waves differently, which can be used to create maps of underground features. Although this principle has been employed since the 1910s, over the past few years technological advances have made the equipment faster and higher resolution.


The project was funded by the AHRC. Lieven Verdonck, from Ghent University, was employed on a post-doctoral fellowship from the Fund for Scientific Research — Flanders (FWO). The team is grateful for support from Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio per l’Area Metropolitana di Roma, la Provincia di Viterbo e l’Etruria Meridionale.

Remains of Two Killed in Vesuvius Eruption Are Discovered at Pompeii

Remains of Two Killed in Vesuvius Eruption Are Discovered at Pompeii

Massimo Osanna, director of the Pompeii Archaeological Park, announced the discovery of the remains of two men lying close together in a villa corridor on the outskirts of the ancient city, according to a BBC News report. 

This month, excavations at a suburban villa outside ancient Pompeii recovered the bodies of two original dwellers frozen in time nearly 2,000 years ago by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius one fateful morning.

The discovery of the two victims, tentatively recognised by archaeologists as a wealthy Pompeian landowner and a younger enslaved person, gave fresh insight into the eruption that buried the ancient Roman city, which has been a subject of widespread fascination since its rediscovery in the 18th century.

Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of two men who died in the volcanic eruption that destroyed the ancient Roman city of Pompeii nearly 2,000 years ago.

Massimo Osanna, the departing director of the Pompeii Archaeological Park, said in a video released on Saturday by the Ministry of Culture that the finding is an “incredible source of information for us. “He noted that it was a touching discovery with considerable emotional impact as well.

For one thing, the two were dressed in woollen clothing, adding credence to the belief that the eruption occurred in October of 79 A.D. rather than in August of that year as had previously been thought, Mr Osanna said later in a telephone interview.

The Vesuvius eruption was described in an eyewitness account by the Roman magistrate Pliny the Younger as “an extraordinary and alarming scene.” Buried by ash, pumice and rocks, Pompeii and neighbouring cities lay mostly dormant, though intact, until 1748, when King Charles III of Bourbon commissioned the first official excavations of the site.

Since then, much of the ancient city has been unearthed, providing archaeologists and historians with a wealth of information about how its ancient dwellers lived, from their home décor to what they ate to the tools they used.

Using a method refined by the Italian archaeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli in 1863 and further honed with modern technology, archaeologists last week made plaster casts of the two newly discovered victims. That brings the ranks of Pompeii’s posthumous effigies to more than 100.

In addition to being the first time in half a century that archaeologists created such casts linked to Pompeii — an attempt using cement in the 1990s was not successful — the new casts are also remarkable in the surprising details they captured, including what Mr Osanna described as the “extraordinary drapery” of their woollen clothing.

“They really seem like statues,” he said.

Archaeologists posit that the two victims had sought refuge in an underground cryptoporticus, or corridor, before being engulfed by a shower of pumice stones, ash and lapilli.

“They very likely died by thermal shock, as the contracted limbs, hands and feet would suggest,” Mr. Osanna said in the video, adding that DNA testing was being carried out on the recovered bones. Pompeii officials believe the older man to have been 30 to 40 years old, and the younger between 18 and 23.

The villa where the discovery was made is in Civita Giuliana, an area about 750 yards northwest of Pompeii’s ancient walls, which has already yielded important finds, including a purebred horse with a bronze-plated saddle uncovered in 2018.

Although the archaeological park closed to visitors on Nov. 6 because of coronavirus restrictions, excavations at the site have continued.

The villa at Civita Giuliana was first excavated briefly in 1907 and 1908. But because it is on private property, the sort of government-commissioned excavations typically carried out on public land did not take place. That changed in 2017, when prosecutors in nearby Torre Annunziata charged a group of people with robbing tombs and looting the site using underground tunnels.

The culture ministry is in the process of buying the land where the villa is situated, and Mr. Osanna said he hoped it could eventually open to the public.

With more than 50 acres still to be excavated, Pompeii continues to be “an incredible site for research, study and training,” Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said in a statement on Saturday. It is, he said, a mission for the “archaeologists of today and the future.”

Archaeologists Discovered An Ancient City Buried 30 Miles Outside Rome Without Ever Digging It Up

Archaeologists Discovered An Ancient City Buried 30 Miles Outside Rome Without Ever Digging It Up

To figure out what they look like, archaeologists no longer have to excavate submerged villages. The entire ancient city of Falerii Novi, some 30 miles outside Rome, has recently been mapped by a group of Belgian and UK researchers, using radar technology that scans beneath the soil.

As the electromagnetic waves of a radar enter an underground structure, they bounce back as a measurement that can be used to produce a 3D image.

The researchers were able to recognise new buildings for the first time, such as an elegant bathhouse and a large public monument that had never been seen before. They were also able to determine how the city was organized compared to other Roman towns.

Though Falerii Novi wasn’t nearly as grand as Pompeii — a wealthy city buried under volcanic ash in 79 AD — the town had its own unique features. Its aqueduct, for instance, ran underneath its city blocks, as well as along the streets (the more common design for that time period). The researchers also found temples at the edge of the city, suggesting a sacred use of the land.

“Although we are yet to understand how this sacred landscape functioned, the survey provides new insights into the variety of planning concepts underlying what are sometimes incorrectly considered to be ‘standardized’ Roman town plans,” the researchers wrote. “By providing a contrast with more familiar towns such as Pompeii, this work also raises important questions about the planning of Roman towns more generally.”

Falerii Novi contained hidden shops, baths, and temples

Falerii Novi was built around 241 BCE. By the first century AD, it was one of around 2,000 cities in ancient Rome. Many of these towns were buried over time as the ground level steadily began to rise, or intentionally buried so Romans could build new settlements on top.

The city’s last human inhabitants left during the early medieval period in around 700 CE. The discoveries from the Belgian and UK researchers, published Tuesday in the scientific journal Antiquity, represent the first use of ground-penetrating radar to map an entire city below ground.

The researchers determined that Falerii Novi is about half the size of Pompeii: around 75 acres. Documenting each one of these acres took around eight hours, leaving them with more than 28 billion data points by the end of the survey.

While the team wasn’t able to analyze every single data point, they did outline the site’s major landmarks — shown on the map below. The map paints a picture of life more than 1,300 years ago, filled with theatre performances, shopping, worshipping, exercising, and bathing.

A massive public monument sits near the north gate, surrounded on three sides by a covered passageway with a central row of columns. The researchers estimated that the passageway is more than 550 feet long and opens out to the street. On the inside of the monument, a pair of structures (each with their own alcove) face toward one another.

“We know of no direct parallel to this structure,” the researchers wrote.

To the south-east are a market building and a public bathhouse. Both of these are new discoveries.

“While these buildings fall within the expected repertoire of a Roman city, some are architecturally sophisticated — more elaborate than would usually be expected in a small town,” the researchers wrote.

A temple directly south of the bathhouse straddles the edge of the city. To its west is a housing complex, consisting of two or three homes with atria. The researchers found evidence that the homes had been remodelled over time.

Some of the walls had been removed by stone robbers. The complex also includes a plunge bath, vaulted rooms with central heating, and a U-shaped area that likely served as an exercise room.

A second housing complex, located to the south at the foot of a slope, is lined with decorative passageways. Water pipes below this building connected to the town’s aqueduct.

These detailed discoveries, often obscured by rubble, were “previously only possible through excavation,” the researchers wrote. Their new survey method, they added, “has the potential to revolutionize archaeological studies of urban sites.”

Jesus Painting Recently Discovered is a real Leonardo da Vinci drawing, Expert Says

Jesus Painting Recently Discovered is a real Leonardo da Vinci drawing, Expert Says

Italian scholars credit a recently found drawing of Jesus Christ to Leonardo da Vinci. Biblical figure’s red chalk drawing has been locked in a private collection for decades.

Art historians may have come upon the art world’s Holy Grail after discovering a new master’s work, by the Renaissance master, reports The Telegraph

Da Vinci, who died in 1519, is one of the world’s most influential artists, behind such works as the Mona Lisa and the painting of the Last Supper.

A newly discovered drawing is being attributed to Leonardo da Vinci by an Italian expert.

The newly discovered drawing depicts a calm Christ with a Mona Lisa-Esque gaze and bears a striking resemblance to other works by Leonardo.

It is now set to undergo rigorous scrutiny as the art world attempts to authenticate whether it is the real deal. The sketch had been hidden in a private collection locked away in a bank in Lombardy.

Lab tests have already found the paper dates back to the early 16th century and it bears a striking resemblance to other works by Leonardo.

Annalisa Di Maria, an Italian art historian who has studied the picture, said the pose, perspective, and style all appear to be that of the master.

She said: “It has that dynamism and sense of movement that is typical of Leonardo.

“The rendering of the beard is practically identical to Leonardo’s self-portraits, as are the eyes.

“And the painting is in red chalk, which the artist used a lot, including in the sketches for The Last Supper.”

Experts are due to present a 60-page study of the artwork at a press conference in Florence once Italy comes through its second wave of the coronavirus.

Ms. Di Maria added: “It is a remarkably beautiful and refined work and I’m absolutely convinced it is a sketch by Leonardo.”

The sketch is currently in the hands of a pair of collectors in the town of Lecco, northern Italy.

It is not clear where the artwork had been hiding over the centuries after it was discovered in the vault of the bank. Martin Kemp, a professor in the history of art at Oxford University, was cautious about the Italians’ attribution.

He has often had to bat away claims about Leonardo due to the intense popularity of Dan Brown’s book and movie The Da Vinci Code. The story claims the hidden secrets of Christianity – such as Jesus’s descendants and the Holy Grail – can be deciphered from Da Vinci’s work.

Mr. Kemp told The Telegraph: “I wouldn’t dismiss it out of hand but I simply can’t tell without seeing the drawing and the scientific evidence.

“I would need to see if it is drawn left-handed. Leonardo drew everything with his left hand.”

The dating of the paper needs to be independently verified. He also suggested it’s possible the sketch could have been produced by a pupil of Leonardo.

Prof Kemp said: “There is quite a crop of paintings of Christ and Salvator Mundi that were produced by followers of Leonardo,”

The painting of Jesus – the Salvator Mundi – was rediscovered in 2005 and became the most expensive painting ever sold, going for £340million.

However, it remains unclear exactly how much involvement he had in the work.

The expert said: “‘m not dismissing it but it has got a long way to go. It would be dangerous to write it off but even more dangerous to accept it at this point.”

Petrified Horse with saddle and harness unearthed intact in a stable near Pompeii

Petrified Horse with saddle and harness unearthed intact in a stable near Pompeii

In a missed escape to safety from the Vesuvius eruption, some horses recently found in a 2,000-year-old stable seem to be frozen.

Just at the top of the equestrian iceberg was a horse recently discovered stuck in the ruins of a residential Pompeii villa. After the finding was confirmed last week, archaeologists have revealed that during the volcanic eruption of Vesuvius that famously buried the ancient Roman settlement, at least three horses died in the villa’s stable.

When they were struck by the toxic, pyroclastic floods that swept through Pompeii and its surroundings after midnight in the summer of 79 A.D., at least two of the animals were harnessed and may be prepared for a frantic evacuation. 

The stunning, complete plaster cast of one of the villa’s horses is the first of its kind from Pompeii. When the volcano erupted, many of the town’s residents and animals collapsed and died in place after being struck with waves of superheated poisonous gas and ash. Their decaying bodies then left hauntingly shaped voids in the hardened ash layer.

In the late 19th century, archaeologists developed a method of injecting plaster into these voids to capture more details about the dead. Since then, it’s mostly been used on humans—and an infamous chained dog—but this was the first attempt on a large mammal.

The team also cast two legs from another horse discovered nearby, but the rest of the void left by that body had been destroyed by tomb robbers, known locally as tombaroli, who were tunnelling around of the walls of the ancient villa to steal artefacts they could sell on the black market.

The bodies of several horses side-by-side in their stables.

Newfound survivor camp may explain the fate of the famed Lost Colony of Roanoke

The void and skeletal remains of a third horse were also almost completely destroyed by tombaroli, zooarchaeologist Chiara Corbino, who studied the horses, tells National Geographic.

Evidence for bits and bridles around the two cast horses suggests that they were harnessed by people trying to flee the eruption, says Massimo Osanna, general director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii. The remains of the third horse are too incomplete to determine whether it was also harnessed at the time of death, says Corbino.

Operation Artemis

The villa, located in the Civita Giuliana area outside the walls of ancient Pompeii, was originally discovered at the beginning of the 20th century, then partially excavated in the 1950s and later sealed.

Investigators spotted the tombaroli tunnels last summer and alerted archaeologists from the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, who then excavated the previously unknown stable area.

Italian authorities have since confirmed to National Geographic that the find is the result of a significant criminal investigation known as Operazione Artemide (Operation Artemis), led by Italy’s national gendarmerie, the Carabinieri.

This multi-year investigation took off in 2014 after thieves stole a frescoed depiction of Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt, from the walls of an ancient Pompeiian house that is currently closed to the public.

By early 2015, the operation had swept up more than 140 suspects—tombaroli, illegal art dealers, and even some mafia members—in simultaneous dawn raids across 22 Italian provinces. Teams recovered some 2,000 ancient artefacts, including illegally excavated vases, coins, and architectural fragments.

According to Osanna, research at the villa has been concluded for the time being, but the archaeologists do not rule out continuing excavations in future, which might reveal yet more tragic moments frozen in time.

Archaeologists discovered ancient bedroom ‘erotica’ art in Pompeii

Archaeologists discovered ancient bedroom ‘erotica’ art in Pompeii

In the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii was a “sensual” depiction of a legendary Spartan queen who is sex with a swan. Further evidence, not that it was needed, that people just love erotic pictures.

In a bedroom in the town that was destroyed when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, a newly discovered fresco capturing a scene from classical mythology was found.

The figure of Leda, impregnated by the Roman god Jupiter, who has taken the form of a swan. The incredibly detailed artwork shows Leda protecting the swan with her cloak as he sits on her lap.

Archaeologists uncovered the, incredibly vivid, fresco during works to bolster Pompeii’s structures after rains and wear-and-tear caused some ruins to collapse, the body that oversees the ancient site said.

Depictions of Leda and Jupiter were not uncommon in Pompeii but the archaeological park’s director Massimo Osanna praised the discovery as exceptional because the skilled artist had painted it to make it appear that Leda was looking at whoever entered the bedroom.

“Leda watches the spectator with a sensuality that’s absolutely pronounced,” Osanna told Italian news agency ANSA.

He noted the fresco’s context in the Greek “myth of love, with an explicit sensuality in a bedroom where, obviously beside sleep, there could be other activities.”

The painting was found in an opulent house where another splendid fresco was discovered earlier this year.

Osanna said one theory is that the owner was a rich merchant who wanted to display his good taste by filling his house with myth-inspired art.

Leda is an important figure in classical mythology. She was said to have borne children fathered by the god Zeus, the Greek version of Jupiter, and by a mortal king of Sparta. She is the mother of Helen of Troy and the twin’s Castor and Pollux.

Centuries after the destruction of Pompeii the story of the swan’s seduction of Leda became a favoured subject in Renaissance Italy and inspired works by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.

The fresco is the latest in a series of impressive recent finds in Pompeii. Last Year graffiti was discovered that shifted the timeline of the catastrophic eruption by several months while the separate discovery of six skeletons huddled together shed further light on how people reacted as Vesuvius laid waste to their world.