Photographer's Note

An extraordinary mosaic uncovered in one of the ruined houses in Pompeii, the House of the Labyrinth. This mosaic probably dates to about the first century AD, which means it was relatively new when covered by the volcanic eruption. The house was first excavated in the 1830s. As with numerous other mosaics (they even have their own room!), this one is now housed at the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, where it can be better preserved. The cockfight mosaic was constructed from thousands of "tesserae" made from various types of stone; tesserae were carefully cut "tiles" that were square in shape and standardized in terms of color and texture so that subjects could be portrayed as lifelike as possible. Some tesserae are incredibly small, measuring only a few milimeters across, which allowed master craftsmen to capture stunning details, as seen in this photo. Many mosaics are, in fact, imitations of paintings (the most notable example is the exquisite Alexander mosaic, also on display at the National Archaeological Museum, which was probably a Greek wall painting).

In terms of the subject of this mosaic, cockfighting was a popular sport in both ancient Greece and Rome; Italians probably inherited it from the Greeks and Etruscans. According to one scholar, roosters were carefully trained for their matches and were fed onion and garlic to strengthen them. As in modern cockfights, metal claws were often fastened to their spurs. There may be some religious significance in this mosaic, as the wand of mercury can be seen on the table behind the dueling birds.

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Additional Photos by Terez Anon (terez93) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 92 W: 78 N: 1219] (2138)
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