Archaeologists have found a cache of apotropaic amulets, talismans, crystals and other propitiatory paraphernalia in Pompeii which demonstrate how magic pervaded life in Ancient Rome.
While tabloid headlines scream that the cache represents "witch's treasure trove", most serious experts point out the Ancient Romans routinely wore charms and filled their homes with religio-magical items designed to ward off evil and attract fertility, health and good fortune.
In this case, the items were contained in a trunk at a Pompeii home, site director Massimo Osanna said.
The objects included crystals, amber and amethyst stones, buttons made of bones, beetles from the orient, amulets, dolls, bells, miniature penises (known as "fascinus" good-luck charms), fists to repel evil, and even a tiny fetish skull for use in a magical spell.
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They were found at the Villa del Giardino, the same area where an inscription was recently uncovered that made historians change the date of when they think the Vesuvius eruption that destroyed Pompeii took place, shifting it from 24 August to 24 October 79 AD.
"There are dozens of good luck charms next to other objects that were attributed with the power of crushing bad luck," Osanna told ANSA the Italian news agency, adding that he thinks that it is more likely that the objects belonged to a servant or slave than the owner of the house.
Indeed, the chest did not include the gold that the all the wealthy people of Pompeii loved to wear.
"They could have been necklaces that were worn during rituals rather being used to look elegant," said Osanna.
The experts say the objects may have been used in rituals for fertility, seduction, or to seek good omens for a birth or pregnancy, while stressing that this is just a hypothesis.