Rare ancient Roman frescos found in south of France

The face of a young woman was one of the ancient images found at Arles in the south of France
The face of a young woman was one of the ancient images found at Arles in the south of France Julien Boislève, Inrap/ Musée Départemental Arles Antique

Extremely rare ancient Roman frescos, comparable to those found in the Villa of Mysteries in Pompeii, have been uncovered in the historic southern French city of Arles. Photos of the ancient painting were released Friday after the mural from a villa bedroom was found in April.


The first full mural in the Pompeii style in France from between 20 and 70 BC has been found in Arles.

Archaeologists from the Museum of Ancient Arles collections have been working to recover the remains of the Roman villa since 2014.

Slideshow: Rare frescos found in Arles

The fresco is unique as it is one of the only full murals that has been found outside Italy - others have simply been fragments.

Experts at the National Institute of Preventive Archaeological research (Inrap) compare the images to those found in the villa of Boscoreale and the famous Villa of Mysteries in Pompeii, the ancient Roman town near Naples that was preserved under lava from an eruption of the Vesuvius volcano.

The Arles fresco shows 11 images in total, including one of a beautiful woman plucking the strings of a harp in rich Egyptian blues and red vermilion pigments.

The use of these luxurious colors shows the wealth of the area during Roman times.

Arles was a "sort of Beverly Hills" until the area was abandoned after a fire in the year 260, archaeologist Alain Genot  told Le Monde newspaper .

A new excavation is planned for 2016 on a third villa.

After this excavation, the scientists will have over 12,000 boxes of the fresco fragments that still need to be pieced together like a giant puzzle, although it will be impossible to reconstruct the images perfectly.

"There will be gaps, gaps in these reborn frescos," said Marie-Pierre Roth, head scientist in the operation.

Because of the number of fragments it could be as long as 10 years before the full fresco is completed.

However, Alain Charron, head of the Museum of Ancient Arles collections, said that it could be possible that parts of the mural could be exhibited temporarily before then to show off this new archaeological treasure.

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