Only the finest materials were used for this 4-wheeled chariot.
The site of Pompeii is known the world over for the archaeological incredible finds there. Life in the city came to a painful end in 79 AD when the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius buried the area in a relentless stream of hot ash. Anyone who came into contact with the volcanic material was killed, but the way they died meant that their bodies, homes, animals, and belongings have been well-preserved for nearly 2,000 years under layers of cinerite. Excavations at Pompeii are ongoing and recently a rare, spectacular processional chariot was unearthed unlike anything found in Italy before.
The chariot was found at the Civita Giuliana site, which was once a thriving villa in its day. This was effectively a suburb of Pompeii just north of the city proper. The chariot was found facing a stable where the remains 3 of horses had previously been found.
The vehicle was made of iron and beech wood with decorations of bronze and tin. Unlike lesser models that would have had only 2 wheels, this chariot has 4 wheels. Organic remains were also found on and near the chariot indicating the ropes once attached to it and a series of fresh flowers that would have adorned the chariot as well. Plaster casts were made of the voids where the organic materials once existed, including the shaft and the platform, so that there can be a full record of the chariot and the accessories that went with it.
The chariot features metal backrests and armrests for comfort and has metal depictions of satyrs, nymphs, and erotic scenes which have lead researchers to consider that the chariot may have been used for wedding processions where the bride was taken from her natal home to her married household.
Some have called this find the “Lamborghini” of chariots of the ancient world as only the very wealthy would have been able to afford something as grand as this.
In a recent press release from the Archaeological Park of Pompeii and the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Torre Annunziata officials declared that the find “is entirely unique in Italy” – making this an unparalleled discovery. Previously uncovered ancient chariots were used for transport or agriculture, but this is the first ceremonial chariot ever discovered in Italy (though a finely made and unadorned chariot of this type was discovered in Greece 15 years ago).
At the time of the volcano eruption the walls and ceiling of the room where the chariot was parked collapsed under the weight, but left the vehicle miraculously unharmed. The volcanic ash which then covered the vehicle is what kept it so well-preserved.
The find was announced amidst a sting operation to arrest looters to the site, which has now lead to the arrest of 2 suspects. In fact, tunnels dug by the looters came dangerously close to this rare chariot, but also did not damage it.