Latest Pompeii Discovery is a Rare Blue Room

Likely used as an ancient Roman shrine, the residential space boasts an unusual wall color and figurative fresco paintings.

Jun 7, 2024By Emily Snow, MA History of Art, BA Art History & Curatorial Studies
The newly-uncovered blue room at Pompeii Archaeological Park. Source: Italian Ministry of Culture.


The discovery of a rare “blue room” at Pompeii Archaeological Park was announced this week. Boasting bright blue walls—a very unusual, and thus significant, color choice in the ancient Roman city—the residential space most likely functioned as a shrine.


Blue Room Was An Ancient Roman Shrine

Excavations of the blue room at Pompeii. Source: Italian Ministry of Culture.


Experts believe the newly-discovered, highly decorative blue room was an ancient Roman shrine known as a sacrarium. The Italian Cultural Ministry noted that the room’s blue wall color is a particularly rare find in Pompeii, signifying the space was functionally and aesthetically important. The 86-square-foot space was recently uncovered in Regio IX of central Pompeii, a residential area that is one of the park’s most active excavation sites.


Pompeiians most likely would have used the blue room primarily for ritual activities and the storage of sacred objects. Its use was not necessarily confined to religious practice, however—just before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which buried Pompeii beneath layers of ash in 79 A.D.E., the room functioned as a warehouse for ceramic storage vessels called amphorae.


Archaeologists Found Fresco Figures and Construction Materials

A female allegorical figure painted on the wall of the Blue Room. Source: Italian Ministry of Culture.


The vivid walls of Pompeii’s newly-discovered blue room feature decorative fresco paintings of female figures holding various symbolic objects. On the room’s central wall, two allegorical figures depict agriculture and shepherding, wielding a plow and a short stick commonly used by shepherds. In the room’s side niches, four additional female figures—known as Horens in Greek mythology—represent the four seasons.

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In addition to the fifteen transportable amphorae stored in the blue room at the time of its burial, archaeologists found two bronze jugs and two oil lamps in the area. Building materials used in renovations were also found at the site, including the remains of oyster shells, which would have been crushed and added to plaster and mortar mixes.


Pompeii is an Archaeological “Treasure Chest”

The Blue Room. Source: Italian Cultural Ministry.


Archaeologists at Pompeii have made several notable discoveries in recent months, including children’s surprisingly violent wall drawings—unveiled just last week—and a pristinely preserved banquet hall with vibrant mythological fresco paintings. These impressive finds are part of an ongoing project to secure a perimeter between the excavated and non-excavated areas of Pompeii Archaeological Park. Over 13,000 rooms have been fully excavated at the park thus far. According to the Italian Cultural Ministry, this project also aims to improve the infrastructure of the excavation area to help make the “protection of the vast Pompeiian heritage…more effective and sustainable.”


Gennaro Sangiuliano, the Italian Minister of Culture, reaffirmed the significance of ongoing archaeological work at Pompeii, saying, “Pompeii is truly a treasure chest that never ceases to surprise us and arouse amazement because, every time we dig, we find something beautiful and significant.”

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By Emily SnowMA History of Art, BA Art History & Curatorial StudiesEmily Snow is a contributing writer and art historian based in Amsterdam. She earned an MA in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art and loves knitting, her calico cat, and everything Victorian.