Archaeologists have discovered a room in a villa near Pompeii which offers a “very rare insight into the daily lives of slaves”, officials have said.

The slave room was found by a team excavating the villa – named Civita Giuliana – near the ruins of the ancient city destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 79AD.

It has just one high window, no wall decorations, and three beds in sizes indicating that a slave family with a child had lived there.

The beds were made with roughly-worked wooden planks that could be assembled according to the height of those sleeping on them.

Two of the beds are about 1.7m long and the third is just 1.4m.

Italy’s culture minister Dario Franceschini said: “Thanks to this new important discovery, the knowledge of the daily life of the ancient Pompeiians is enriched, in particular of that part of society still little known today.”

Officials at the site said the room was a dormitory and a storage area which also had a wooden chest containing metallic objects and textiles, apparently part of harnesses for horses.

There were also the remains of a steering element for a chariot, chamber pots, and other containers.

The slave room was described as being in an “exceptional state”.

Gabriel Zuchtriegel, director general of the Pompeii site, said: “It is a window into the precarious reality of people who rarely appear in historical sources written almost exclusively by men belonging to the elite, and who therefore risk remaining invisible in great historical stories.

“It is a case in which archaeology helps us to discover a part of the ancient world that we know little about, but which is extremely important.”

The villa, which has a view of the Mediterranean, was found in 2017 in what was described as among the most significant discoveries at the site, which is about 14 miles southeast of Naples.

The skeletal remains of two people – believed to have been a wealthy man and his male slave – were also found.

It is thought they were hit by ash as they tried to escape the erupting volcano.

Pompeii has been the target of looting and grave robbing for years, and the Italian culture ministry said that, despite the efforts of those looking after the site, part of its heritage had already been lost due to this.

The culture ministry estimated that the damage to the villa was almost €2m (£1.7m).

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