exceptional discovery of a rich Roman ceremonial chariot

ARCHEOLOGY – The prestigious ceremonial vehicle decorated with erotic medallions was found, in excellent condition, by Italian archaeologists on the outskirts of the ancient city of Campania.

Pompeii has not finished revealing its secrets and amazed us. A week after the appointment of its new director, the Archaeological Park of the most visited ancient city in the world has just announced in a communicated have discovered the exceptional remains of an ancient ceremonial chariot from Roman times. Exceptionally preserved by the properties of volcanic tuff, it was buried in the Iis century AD AD, during the eruption of Vesuvius.

Unearthed with a thousand precautions since January, the vehicle was found at the site of the large villa of Civita Giuliana, about 700 meters northwest of the ancient city of Pompeii. The chariot, a four-wheeler, has a rich bronze and pewter decoration consisting of a frieze and medallions. Also wonderfully preserved, this ornamental register located at the rear of the vehicle is loaded with erotic scenes populated by nymphs and satyrs.

Less artistic but just as precious in the eyes of archaeologists, the iron strapping of the chariot’s wheels, the remains of its wooden frame as well as various traces of decomposed organic matter – ropes, floral decorations – have also been identified. Embellished with a small seat with armrests, the platform – quite light it seems – could accommodate one to two passengers. The luxury of its ornamentation and the context of its discovery – in a villa in the center of the Roman Empire – leaves no doubt that it was a ceremonial chariot, the use of which was reserved for civic ceremonies.

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Massimo Osanna, the outgoing director of the Pompeii site, did not hide his enthusiasm for this large-scale find. “It is an extraordinary discovery for the advancement of our knowledge of the ancient world. If we have already found in Pompeii vehicles such as that of the house of Menander, or the two tanks discovered at the Villa of Ariadne, they are in no way comparable to the tank of the Civita Giuliana.»He declared in the press release from the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, specifying that only examples found in a Thracian tumulus can be compared to the model found in the city buried by the eruption of Vesuvius. This tank, undoubtedly a pilentum, was to be employed by the Roman elite “to accompany community festivities, parades and processions“Also specified Massimo Osanna, who does not exclude to see either a matrimonial float, taking into account its decoration”associated with Eros».

Large-scale excavations

Excavated by a multidisciplinary archaeological team composed among others of archaeobotanists and anthropologists, the room of the villa in which the tank was discovered faces the stable spent in recent years with a fine comb by the Pompeian teams. Three horses were discovered there in 2018, including one still harnessed with a bronze coin. The chariot room, on the other hand, is a two-level wooden portico that overlooks a courtyard of the villa.

The discovery of a vehicle in such a state of preservation is extremely rare, if not unprecedented. Extremely fragile, the tank was sent to the laboratory of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii where it should be the subject of a meticulous restoration campaign in the coming months.

This discovery comes at a time of intensification of the fight against looting and clandestine excavation sites near historic Italian sites. “The digging of a complex network of tunnels more than five meters deep, the looting and partial destruction of illegally explored areas required an investigative operation which could only be carried out through a planned archaeological excavation, which was therefore carried out next to the Archaeological Park of PompeiiSaid Torre Annunziata Attorney General Nunzio Fragliasso. The rise in looting in recent years is due to the recent increase in illegal trafficking – and sale – of cultural property around the world.

To see also – Pompeii: a thermopolium, an ancient “fast food”, discovered almost intact

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