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New X-Rated Discoveries Unearthed in Pompeii

November 3, 1986

POMPEII, Italy (AP) _ Archaeologists have made new X-rated discoveries in Pompeii, unearthing fresh evidence of the libertine habits of the ancient Romans.

Pornographic mosaics depicting combinations of two, three or four men and women engaged in sexual activities were found in what experts describe as a combination bathhouse and bordello.

Baldassare Conticello, the archaeological superintendent of Pompeii, said the finds were unique in Pompeii and ″unusual even for Romans.″

″Erotic scenes of more than two people are very rare in classical art,″ he said in an interview.

The mosaics were part of a series of recent discoveries in Pompeii, a bustling city with an opulent lifestyle that was buried when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D.

They came to light after a long-sought allocation of government money permitted archaeologists to undertake limited excavations.

In the two centuries since the first excavations, much has been learned about the lifestyle of the ancients, their architecture and use of urban planning. But one-third of the city is still buried under 19 to 23 feet of volcanic ash and debris.

That Pompeii’s wealthy merchants and visiting sailors had a touch for the erotic has been documented.

Archaeologists have unearthed erotic art, graffiti and considerable evidence that prostitution flourished in Roman times, and such material is on the ″must see″ list of many visitors, although the Neapolitan custodians often discourage women from viewing it.

The book ″Eros in Pompeii″ was a best-seller in Italy in the 1970s and is out of print.

The new discoveries were made near the main entrance to the excavations at the Porta Marina, in what are known as the Suburban Baths. The site, the best preserved bathhouse found in Pompeii, is just outside the walls, on the road to the sea, and is believed to have been frequented by sailors.

The pornographic mosaics are undergoing restoration and superintendent Conticello said they should be ready to go on public view in six or seven months.

Art historians have long lamented the deterioration of the ruins, which have been endangered by encroaching vegetation and the elements and subjected to vandalism and thefts. They received another blow when hit by the massive southern Italian earthquake in 1980. Officials have said the tremor cracked walls in at least 100 places.

But as a result of the earthquake, Conticello said, the government finally gave money that is being used for both restoration and limited digging.

Of the promised $75 million, one-third already has been received, the superintendent said.

Experts here are also excited about the recent finding of three wooden safes filled with gems, such as corals and aquamarines, in a housing complex at another side of the city.

Annamaria Solo, a young archaeologist working in the dig, said she believes they had uncovered a jewelry workshop, which would be further evidence of the opulence of Pompeii, considered one of the wealthiest cities in the Roman Empire.

In yet another discovery earlier this year, for the first time ever the roofs of two houses were found perfectly preserved with their tiles in place, and not collapsed under the weight of volcanic debris.

The experts hope to find the furnishings, walls and everyday objects or artworks intact.

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