The chariot may have been used in ceremonies such as weddings © Handout via EPA

The ancient city of Pompeii, engulfed by ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, continues to reveal its secrets as archaeologists make new discoveries. In 2018 the remains of three horses, one of them still in harness, were found in the stables of an ancient villa. Now (February 2021) a ceremonial chariot has been discovered nearby.

The chariot was found in a double-level portico connected to the stables of a villa in the ancient suburb of Civita Giuliana, north of the city walls. The four-wheeled carriage is in an excellent state of preservation and was discovered “almost intact”. In a press release, Massimo Osanna, director of the site, said that it has “iron components, beautiful bronze and tin decorations” as well as ropes and floral decoration.

The chariot is in an excellent state of preservation © Handout via EPA

Experts believe that the vehicle is a “piletum” and may well have been used in festivities and parades. Some of the ornate decorations on the chariot allude to it being used for community festivities, possibly including wedding ceremonies. Some reports have even described some of the decorations as being ‘erotic’. Mr. Osanna said “Ancient sources allude to the use of the Piletum by priestesses and ladies, so one cannot exclude the possibility that this could have been a chariot used for rituals relating to marriage, for leading the bride to her new household.”

Some of the decorations have been described as ‘erotic’ © Handout via EPA

Archaeologists say that their efforts to safely free the chariot without damage took several weeks after it was first discovered. The fragility of the materials made their work particularly complex and involved a number of special techniques, including plaster moulding.

The remains of the ancient city of Pompeii lie around 23km (14 miles) to the south-east of Naples in Italy. It is a Unesco World Heritage site.

Text                 Alun Harvey

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