When Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD79, the Roman city of Pompeii was buried up to six metres beneath the resulting pyroclastic flow. The city lay hidden for centuries before being rediscovered in 1748 by the Spanish military engineer Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre.
In the 19th century, Giuseppe Fiorelli took charge of the excavations. Voids in the ash layer were discovered containing human remains. It was Fiorelli who realised that the voids were spaces left by the decomposed bodies. He devised the technique of injecting plaster into them to recreate the forms of Vesuvius’s victims. The casts of the victims have become poignant reminders of lives taken in an instant during the natural disaster.
Over one thousand casts have since been made and now the remains of horses have also been found at Pompeii.
New excavations at luxurious villa
Excavations at Pompeii continue to this day. Archaeologists working on a villa just outside the walls of the ancient city have recently found a preserved horse in a stable. It was saddled and harnessed ready to leave, here are some pictures of the preserved horses in the Daily Mail article. The horse was unearthed along with two others which had been engulfed by the huge deluge of hot ash during the volcanic eruption.
According to a press release, the discoveries were made during a joint operation of the Archaeological Park with the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Torre Annunziata, the Carabinieri Group Command of Torre Annunziata and the Naples Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage. The group began excavating the area in the spring of 2018.
Looters got there first
Looters had been tunnelling into the site of the villa and so excavation work was undertaken to help protect it. The work exposed rooms of what was a grand and impressive house, including one area which was clearly the stable. Archaeologists had initially uncovered the remains of one complete horse and the legs of a second in the stable.
Further excavations in the summer of last year, led to the discovery of the third horse and pieces of an elaborate military harness. This featured wooden elements and five bronze ceremonial pieces. Sadly, it appears that looters may have removed further pieces of the harness. There were signs that the horse had been covered in a rug when it died and may have been carrying a bag.
Important equine finds
The horses were important finds and are believed to have been selectively bred for their impressive size. The Villa where they were uncovered is thought to have belonged to a general in the army or a high-ranking military official. The property was rediscovered in the early 20th century by the land owner Marquis Onofrio Inperiali. He had excavated portions of the villa and sold off some of the artefacts found before covering it up again.
The house, which overlooked the Bay of Naples and the Isle of Capri, featured a seaside terrace, a storehouse, a kitchen garden and servants’ quarters. An entire street of grand houses close to the villa has also recently been rediscovered. Further excavations of the site will be funded by The Pompeii Archaeological Park and these could produce new revelations. One day, the villa may be open to the public and the horses placed on display.