Wednesday 19 September 2018

Tomb raiders uncover ancient Roman horse in Pompeii

An archaeologist works on the remains of a horse which were found in the stable of a Pompeii villa, near Naples in Italy. Photo: Cesare Abbate/AP
An archaeologist works on the remains of a horse which were found in the stable of a Pompeii villa, near Naples in Italy. Photo: Cesare Abbate/AP

Nick Squires

Archaeologists have made an unusual discovery at Pompeii - the remains of a carbonised horse which died when the ancient Roman city was engulfed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius 2,000 years ago.

The horse was found in the remains of a large Roman villa, which tomb raiders had been excavating illegally in search of artefacts and valuables.

The tomb robbers are now being investigated by police and prosecutors.

Massimo Osanna, the director of Pompeii, described the horse as an "extraordinary" discovery.

None of its flesh and bones remain but by pumping plaster into the space where it was the found, they produced an accurate cast of the animal.

It is a technique that was pioneered in the late 19th century by some of the first archaeologists to systematically excavate Pompeii.

It is the first time that a cast has been made of a horse at Pompeii - the technique has previously been used for the human victims of the cataclysmic eruption.

Experts believe the horse was used in military parades and ceremonies, and possibly for races. It was found in the remains of a stable attached to the villa.

Authorities found that tomb raiders had dug a 60 metre-long network of tunnels beneath the villa in their hunt for artefacts and frescoes. Experts used laser scanners to map the illegal tunnels, which were just 60cm wide.

Animals have been found at Pompeii before, including the remains of donkeys, domestic pigs and pet dogs, some of them contorted in the last throes of agony as they perished in the volcanic eruption.

Archaeologists also found a tomb, with the skeleton of a man aged 40-55 years inside it, that dates from after the eruption of AD 79 - showing that people recolonised what remained of Pompeii.

"It shows that even after the eruption, people continued to live and to farm in Pompeii, on top of the layer of ash which destroyed the city," said Prof Osanna.

The tiles which sealed the tomb were probably taken from a house that had been destroyed in the volcanic explosion, he said.

The villa yielded amphora shards, the remains of kitchen utensils and even part of a wooden bed, miraculously preserved beneath the volcanic ash.

It was the second major find at Pompeii in a few weeks. Last month archeologists discovered the skeleton of a child trying to hide from the ash and pumice that rained down on the city.

Irish Independent

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