Dienstag, 13.04.2021 17:30 Uhr

A large ceremonial chariot discovered in Pompeii

Verantwortlicher Autor: Carlo Marino Rome/Pompeii, 28.02.2021, 20:20 Uhr
Nachricht/Bericht: +++ Kunst, Kultur und Musik +++ Bericht 4049x gelesen

Rome/Pompeii [ENA] The Archaeological Park of Pompeii and the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Torre Annunziata, Naples, announced the discovery of an amazing find, come into sight intact from the excavation of the suburban villa of Civita Giuliana, beyond the walls to the north of the ancient city of Pompeii. The excavation is part of the joint operations launched in 2017 which strived for fighting against illegal activities

which had been conducted in the area. A large ceremonial chariot with four wheels, along with its iron components, beautiful bronze and tin decorations, mineralised wood remains and imprints of organic materials (from the ropes to the remains of floral decoration), has been discovered in the portico facing the stable where, in 2018, the remains of 3 horses, including a horse still in its harness, had already been found. This is an exceptional discovery, not only because it adds an supplementary element to the history of this dwelling, to the story of the last moments in the lives of those who lived in it, and to the understanding of the ancient world. It represents a unique find - which has no parallel in Italy up until now -

in an excellent state of preservation. An interdisciplinary team composed of archaeologists, architects, engineers, restorers, vulcanologists and specialised workers but also, as the excavation proceeded, archaeobotanists and anthropologists carried out the interventions. From the very beginning, the excavation of the room where the chariot was found revealed its extraordinary nature: the area is in fact a double-level portico which opens onto an uncovered courtyard, and which features the carbonised wooden ceiling with its network of beams, preserved in its entirety.

In keeping with the interdisciplinary perspective adopted in the excavations of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, archaeobotanical analyses have been carried out on the wood and have shown that the ceiling was made of deciduous oak wood (Quercus sp. – cf. robur - English oak), a timber which was frequently used in the Roman age for structural elements. The carbonised wooden structure of the door on the southern side of the room, which connected the portico to the stable where the three horses were recently discovered, was also preserved, and upon analysis was identified as beechwood.The wooden ceiling was carefully consolidated, cleaned, and removed from the excavation area in order to permit the investigations to continue.

On January 7th an iron artefact, the shape of which suggested the presence of a significant buried artefact, emerged from the covering of volcanic material which had flooded into the portico, just below the removed wooden ceiling. The excavation, which proceeded slowly over the following weeks due to the fragility of the elements which were progressively emerging, unearthed a ceremonial chariot, which had miraculously been spared by both the collapse of the walls and ceiling of the room and by the illegal activities, with tunnels passing it by on two sides, but without compromising the structure.

Given the extreme fragility of the chariot and the risk of possible illegal operations and damage caused by news leaks, the team has worked every weekend since mid-January, both to guarantee its conservation but also to send a strong signal of the Park’s action to protect the heritage, alongside the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Torre Annunziata and officers of the Naples Carabinieri Headquarters for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, assisted by investigators of the Carabinieri Group Command of Torre Annunziata. This collaboration also led to the participation of Park technicians in the ongoing trial of the alleged illegal excavators, who have struck this villa severely in recent years.

Given the extreme fragility of the chariot and the risk of possible illegal operations and damage caused by news leaks, the team has worked every weekend since mid-January, both to guarantee its conservation but also to send a strong signal of the Park’s action to protect the heritage, alongside the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Torre Annunziata and officers of the Naples Carabinieri Headquarters for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, assisted by investigators of the Carabinieri Group Command of Torre Annunziata. This collaboration also led to the participation of Park technicians in the ongoing trial of the alleged illegal excavators, who have struck this villa severely in recent years.

The various elements of the chariot have been transported to the laboratory of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, where the restorers are working to complete the removal of volcanic material which still engulfs certain metal elements, and to begin the lengthy restoration and reconstruction of the chariot. Atop high iron wheels, connected by an advanced mechanical system, rests the light carriage (0.90 x 1.40 m), or the main part of the chariot, where the seat was located, surrounded by metal arm and backrests, for either one or two individuals.

The carriage is richly decorated along both sides with alternating engraved bronze sheet and red and black painted wooden panels, whilst at the rear there is a complex and extensive decorative system featuring three distinct registers with a succession of bronze and tin medallions with figurative scenes.These medallions, set in bronze sheet and surrounded by decorative motifs, represent male and female figures in relief, depicted in erotic scenes.The bronze sheet is also decorated in its upper section with small medallions, also in tin, which depict cupids engaged in various activities. In the lower section of the chariot there is a small female herm in bronze with a crown.

Archaeobotanical analyses were also conducted in this instance, which showed that the wood used to create the side structures and rear of the chariot, to which the bronze decorative elements were fixed with small nails and clamps, was beech, which is particularly suitable for this kind of production. This kind of chariot is entirely unique in Italy, not only on account of its state of preservation. There are not only individual decorations but the entire vehicle. It is not a chariot used for the transport of agricultural products or the activities of daily life, as is already attested both at Pompeii and Stabiae. It may be a carriage used to take the newlywed to her new domestic hearth.

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