Vote 2020 graphic
Everything you need to know about and expect during
the most important election of our lifetimes

Horse Skeleton With Saddle and Harness Still Attached Uncovered at Pompeii

Illustration for article titled Horse Skeleton With Saddle and Harness Still Attached Uncovered at Pompeiiem/em
Image: Pompeii Archaeological Park

The volcano that destroyed Pompeii in 79 AD affected both the citizens of the ancient Roman city and their animal companions, as a remarkable new discovery shows.

Advertisement

The remains of a horse, with its harness and saddle still attached, have been uncovered at the Villa of Mysteries at Pompeii Archaeological Park in Italy, the BBC reports. The formerly luxurious villa is a well-preserved suburban estate on the outskirts of Pompeii that once overlooked the sea. Massimo Osanna, the director general of the park, said the horse likely belonged to a high-ranking military officer, possibly a general, or a high-ranking military magistrate.

Advertisement

In 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted, peppering the ancient Roman city with ash and rock. A dense, fast-moving cloud of hot gas and debris locked many of its victims in their final death position. Thousands of residents were killed during the eruption, many of whom were trying to flee. Indeed, the condition of the newly discovered horse, with its harness and saddle attached, suggests the animal was being prepared for the evacuation.

Along with the saddle and harness, archaeologists found fragments of wooden and bronze trimmings, in addition to two other thoroughbred horses, according to the BBC. The Villa of Mysteries and its stable was located along the northern outskirts of the city.

Illustration for article titled Horse Skeleton With Saddle and Harness Still Attached Uncovered at Pompeiiem/em
Image: Pompeii Archaeological Park

Like many of Pompeii’s inhabitants, the horses likely suffered a “fierce and terrible end,” in the words of Osanna, suffocating from the falling ash and hot, noxious clouds of volcanic gas.

Advertisement

Archaeologists have been exploring the remains of the Villa of Mysteries, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, since 1909, but the new discovery shows the ancient estate still has tales to tell.

[BBC]

Advertisement

George is a senior staff reporter at Gizmodo.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

Pompeii is super interesting to visit if you’re ever in the area. It’s worth spending at least part of a day wandering, though having a tour guide to explain what you’re seeing is also really helpful in appreciating it. You get to see the gamut of everyday life at the time the volcano blew, from gyms for gladiator training to rich merchant houses to little food stalls along the streets. There’s even a brothel, with pictures of the specialty of the particular lady of the night in each room above the door. (If you’re looking for the brothel, find a main thoroughfare and look closely for a penis etched into the ground near a corner, then just follow the penis. Seriously.)

And since it’s still an active dig site, you can see all the new stuff they’ve recently unearthed. To see the plaster casts like this horse are easily the most chilling. When they find a cavity they pull out the recoverable pieces, then fill the hole with plaster to get a rough outline of the thing that used to be there (the ground solidified and then the bodies decayed away, leaving the void). I’ve got photos of a cast of a woman who was huddled in a corner with her hands around her knees as she died, and another of a pregnant woman who died on her back somewhere. The rough texture gives them a bit of a haunting appearance, much more viscerally real than a lifelike sculpture would be in my opinion.