A “prison bakery”, which employed slaves, found in Pompeii

Excavations carried out in a house revealed a narrow room with no outside view, where slaves and donkeys were locked up and exploited to grind the grain necessary for the production of bread.

Locked up slaves, blindfolded donkeys in a confined space: archaeologists have unearthed a “prison bakery” in the ancient city of Pompeiidestroyed in the year 79 by the eruption of Vesuvius.

These excavations carried out in a house made it possible to discover “a narrow room with no outside view, with small windows with iron bars to let in light”, the site located near Naples, in southern Italy, announced in a press release. Archaeologists concluded that there was a “prison bakery, where slaves and donkeys were locked up and exploited to grind the grain necessary for the production of bread”. The research also revealed the presence of “engravings on the ground to coordinate the movement of the animals, forced to turn for hours blindfolded”.

The house, currently being renovated, was “divided – as is often the case – into a residential area decorated with refined frescoes and a production area intended here for the manufacture of bread”adds the press release.

The “prison bakery” seen from above. HANDOUT / AFP

In one of the rooms of the bakery, three skeletons had already been found in recent months, confirming that the house was inhabited. “We must imagine the presence of people with servile status whose owner felt the need to restrict their freedom of movement”underlined the director of the Pompeii site Gabriel Zuchtriegel in a scientific article. “This is the most shocking aspect of ancient slavery, one devoid of both relationships of trust and promises of freedom, where one was reduced to brutal violence, an impression entirely confirmed by the securing of windows with iron bars.”

The volcanic ash spewed 2,000 years ago by Vesuvius sedimented on most of the homes of Pompeii, which allowed them to be almost completely preserved, as did many of the bodies of the 3,000 deaths caused by the catastrophe. Pompeii, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the second most visited tourist destination in Italy after the Colosseum in Rome.

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