Italian archaeologists have discovered a 2,200-year-old tomb adorned with paintings of mythological creatures on its walls and ceiling. Among the striking depictions is a portrayal of two mythological beings known as ichthyocentaurs or sea centaurs, having human heads and chests, the lower bodies of horses, and fish tails.
Discovery in Giugliano
These remarkable paintings were found within an ancient tomb during excavations near Napoli, Italy, about 12 kilometers northwest of the city. The tomb, an underground chamber known as a hypogeum, was discovered in excellent condition, with its entrance still covered by tiles.
Inside the tomb, a plethora of wall paintings adorned the surfaces. The two ichthyocentaurs likely represent Aphros and Bythos, mythological sea deities personifying sea foam and the depths of the ocean.
These sea gods are often depicted wearing lobster claw crowns, but in this tomb, they are shown reaching for a large shield known as a clipeus. Two winged infants, resembling Cupid, complete the scene.
The tomb is also adorned with painted garlands and features an impressive portrayal of Cerberus, the three-headed mythological underworld dog of Roman mythology, captured by the god Hercules during his twelfth labor.
Other Mythological Depictions
Mercury, recognizable by his winged cap, is depicted nearby. An altar was also found within the tomb, where family members could leave offerings for the deceased.
The discovery of this ancient tomb is highly significant for understanding the culture of the past. Mariano Nuzzo, the Inspector of the Metropolitan Area of Napoli, expressed gratitude to the archaeologists who unearthed and preserved this valuable piece of the region’s history.
Previous Archaeological Investigations
Prior archaeological investigations in the volcanic Campi Flegrei area around Giugliano have revealed numerous Roman-era burials, including both inhumations and cremations, dating back over four centuries, from the Republic to the Imperial era. Archaeologists are currently exploring the cemetery, known as the Tomb of Cerberus, and plan to investigate the remaining burials.
This discovery not only provides a fascinating glimpse into the rich history and mythological beliefs of the past but also highlights the importance of preserving and studying such archaeological sites for a better understanding of our cultural heritage.