Excavators found the bronze and pewter chariot almost entirely intact, with wooden remains and the imprint of ropes, according to an announcement Saturday from the Pompeii Archaeological Park.
“This is an extraordinary discovery for the advancement of our knowledge of the ancient world,” said outgoing park director Massimo Osanna. “In Pompeii, transport vehicles have been found in the past, such as that of the House of Menander, or the two tanks discovered at Villa Arianna, but nothing like the Civita Giuliana tank.”
The villa, north of Pompeii in Civita Giuliana, had a stable where the remains of three horses were found in 2018, including a harness. The tank was found inside a two-level porch which probably overlooked a courtyard, not far from the stable.
The Pompeii Archaeological Park described the find as “extraordinary” and that it “adds an additional element to the history of the house”.
The car is decorated with bronze leaves and red and black wood panels. At the bottom, various stories engraved on bronze and pewter medallions. The villa’s ceiling is of deciduous English oak, a material frequently used in Roman times, and it has been carefully removed for further investigation.
Excavators first discovered that part of the artifact emerges from volcanic material on January 7. Weeks later, the entire tank was revealed, miraculously intact despite parts of the room that housed it collapsing.
The engraved bronze and pewter medallions of the chariot, still covered with volcanic material
Luigi Spina / Pompeii Archaeological Park
“Pompeii continues to surprise with all its discoveries, and it will continue to do so for many years to come, with twenty hectares still to be excavated,” Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said in a press video on Friday at Pompeii. “But above all, it shows that valuation can occur, and that tourists can be attracted from all over the world, while at the same time research, training and studies are carried out …”
The park believes the float had ceremonial use, such as accompanying festivities, parades and processions. This type of tank has never been found in Italy before, instead resembling finds from Thrace in northern Greece, park officials said.
The ancient city of Pompeii is one of Italy’s top tourist attractions and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Much of the Greco-Roman city is still covered with debris from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and the city’s blanket of ash and pumice almost 2,000 years ago. And experts are still uncovering bits and pieces that give clues to what life was like when the city was functioning.
Looters have robbed the villa on several occasions in recent years. The prosecutor’s office in Torre Annunziata, officers from the Naples Rifle Headquarters for the Protection of Cultural Heritage and investigators from the Torre Annunziata Rifle Group Command have been helping to protect the tank since January.
The current excavations aim to protect one of the most important villas in the region from looters who have developed a complex system of more than 80 tunnels to a depth of more than 5 meters, looting and partially destroying certain areas of the site.
“The fight against the looting of archaeological sites, both inside and outside the urban area of ancient Pompeii, is certainly one of the main objectives of the Office,” said Attorney General of Torre Annunziata Nunzio Fragliasso, in a press video Friday in Pompeii.