A Long-Lost Pompeii Treasure Was Found in the Basement of a Family Home in Belgium

The precious marble was brought home 50 years ago as a souvenir after a family vacation in Italy.

A marble relief sculpture depicting earthquake of 62 C.E. from Pompeii was found in the basement of a Belgian house. Photo courtesy of the de Temmermans.

A long-lost treasure stolen from Pompeii has been recovered from a family home in Belgium. For the past 50 years, the ancient marble artifact has been installed in a wall lining the staircase leading down to the basement.

The son of the home’s owner, Geert de Temmerman, explained that the mini monument had been brought back from Pompeii as a souvenir five decades ago. On a family vacation to Italy, his father was offered the artwork by an anonymous man who fled the scene as soon as the deal was over. Not realizing the importance of the object, the family installed it in their house as a decorative feature.

Dating from around 62 C.E., the marble relief sculpture is a narrow strip depicting an earthquake that happened that same year. Most notably, it shows the gates of Pompeii toppling over.

When the father, now 85, began preparing to sell the house, which is in the small village of Herzele in East Flanders, the family decided to find out whether the marble might be worth anything, according to VRT NWS. They asked experts from the local Gallo-Roman Museum to come check it out.

“They arrived here and they started looking at it with a flashlight,” de Temmerman said in a video published by Euronews. “I heard them say, yes, it’s authentic and they almost fell over.”

“It closely corresponds to the original piece that we recognize from the photos,” confirmed Bart Demarsin, the museum’s head of exhibitions, speaking to VRT NWS. “That piece corresponds to a similar piece, which also depicts buildings that collapsed during that earthquake.”

Both pieces were once installed in another home belonging to a banker who lived in central Pompeii some 2,000 years ago. The newly discovered artifact has been registered as missing for half a century. The marble will undergo further research to confirm its authenticity, after which it can be reunited with its companion piece in Pompeii’s Antiquarium.

“It’s cultural heritage from Pompeii, and it belongs there,” said An Christiaens, deputy mayor of culture for the local city of Tongeren.

After it was identified, local police arrived to investigate how the stolen treasure ended up in a house in Herzele.

“The judicial police told us we might still be able to get compensation,” claimed de Temmerman. “After all, the piece hung here for 50 years without anything happening to it. It could so easily have been sold on or broken.”


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