Exceptional and unique find in Pompeii: an intact ceremonial chariot with erotic scenes

    The four-wheeled carriage, beautifully decorated and used in religious rituals, has been unveiled in the Civita Giuliana area. It is a unicum of the Roman world.

    The site of Pompeii and its surroundings continue to shed invaluable pieces for understanding the world of Ancient Rome. Archaeologists have just discovered a large ceremonial chariot with beautiful bronze and tin decorations, iron components, and traces of mineralized wood and organic elements such as ropes. It is a totally exceptional find, unique, not only because of its fabulous state of preservation, but also because nothing like it had been documented in the Italian Peninsula until now.

    The discovery, announced this Saturday by the Pompeii Archaeological Park and the Torre Annunziata Prosecutor’s Office, took place on January 7 in an area known as Civita Giuliana, north of the main site. Excavations had been carried out in this sector for several years after the Italian authorities detected a series of tunnels dug by looters to steal the valuable heritage.

    The carriage has been discovered in a portico adjacent to a stable where in 2018 the remains of three horses with their bronze fittings still on came to light and that died burned by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. Would they be the same employees to pull the vehicle now found? In any case, it is not a cart for the transport of agricultural products or other activities of daily life, located in other corners of Pompeii, but it would be a pilentum, used to carry objects and sacred representations during processions and rituals. religious.

    The carriage, made of bronze and wood painted in shades of red and black, has four large iron wheels. The decorative register is made up of bronze sheets and brass and brass medallions that show male and female figures in erotic scenes. The main part of the vehicle, where the seat in which one or two people could be seated is located, is surrounded by metal arms and backs.

    Experts have called the discovery “miraculous.” On the one hand, this unicum of the Roman world has appeared in a portico that opens onto an uncovered patio, but which collapsed with the eruption of Vesuvius, leaving the wood of the roof with its network of charred beams and forming a second stratigraphic level. . The car was saved from the collapse of the ranch and the maneuvers of the looters, who dug tunnels – a network of 80 meters – that crossed the space on both sides and that fortunately have not compromised the structure.

    The research team, which has documented the entire area with laser scanner tools and photography, has been made up of archaeologists, restorers, architects, engineers, volcanologists, anthropologists, and archaeobotanists. Precisely the analyzes in this last discipline have shown that the wood used to make the side structures and the rear part of the car, to which the bronze decorative elements were fixed with small nails and clamps, was beech.

    “It is an extraordinary discovery for the advancement of knowledge of the ancient world,” said Massimo Osanna, outgoing director of the Pompeii Archaeological Park. “This type of chariot, which had never been documented on Italian soil, is comparable to the one discovered fifteen years ago in a burial mound in Thrace [north of Greece, near the border with Bulgaria], although it lacks the extraordinary decoration figurative accompanying that of Pompeii “.

    Ossana has explained that the scenes on the medallions at the rear of the carriage refer to Eros (satyrs and nymphs). “Taking into account that ancient sources allude to the use of the pilentum by priestesses and ladies, the possibility cannot be excluded that this could have been a car used for rituals related to marriage, to take the bride to her new home” , has been assessed by the expert. Pompeii continues to reveal its secrets.

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