Nativity-themed figurines discovered in Pompeii believed to indicate non-Christian ceremony

Thirteen Nativity-style statuettes have been uncovered amidst the remains of Pompeii, providing evidence of pagan rituals in the ancient Roman city. The terracotta sculptures were discovered in an upright position on a potential shelf in the hallway of a house during recent excavations at the archaeological site in southern Italy.

According to Pompeii archaeologists, the presence of these sculptures suggests that Christmas nativity scenes were not part of the pagan tradition in the city, which was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD79. They speculate that these artifacts were used in pagan rituals based on their arrangement. Some of the sculptures, including depictions of human figures, pay homage to the myth of the cult goddess Cybele and her ill-fated lover, Attis. Additionally, there are sculptures of a rooster’s head, an almond, a walnut, and a pine cone.

The hallway where these sculptures were found also featured wall decorations. The discovery site is near the House of Leda and the Swan, which derives its name from a sensual fresco depicting the Greek myth found in one of its rooms in 2019. Currently, excavation and restoration works are underway at this house, believed to have belonged to a wealthy merchant who sought to showcase his cultured lifestyle with myth-inspired frescoes.

The ruins of Pompeii, discovered in the 16th century, continue to yield new insights into life in the ancient city. Earlier this month, excavations in the Regio IX area of the archaeological park unveiled a cramped bakery where enslaved individuals were kept and exploited. The remains of three victims of Mount Vesuvius were found in one of the bakery’s rooms.

In May, during excavations at the Insula dei Casti Amanti (Insula of the Chaste Lovers), which comprises a cluster of homes and a bakery, the remains of two individuals believed to have perished in an earthquake accompanying the volcanic eruption were discovered. These skeletons are estimated to belong to two men in their mid-50s.

In June, a captivating still-life fresco resembling a pizza was found on a wall in what is believed to be the hallway of a house with a bakery annex.

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