Archaeologists Uncover Harnessed Horse In Stable Near Pompeii

Ruins of the Villa dei misteri in Pompeii
Cortyn / Shutterstock

A team of archaeologists made a discovery of “rare importance” in a suburb of the ancient city of Pompeii, as the remains of a harnessed horse and saddle were recently uncovered outside the city’s walls.

According to BBC News, the “well-groomed,” petrified horse was found with the remains of two other horses, as well as a saddle and a harness that had some wooden and bronze trimmings on it. The discovery was made at a stable at Pompeii’s Villa of the Mysteries, and marked the latest find at the area, joining the frescoes, wine presses, and ovens that had been spotted by archaeologists during previous excavations.

As further noted, the Villa of the Mysteries is believed to have belonged to a high-ranking Roman military official. Together with the rest of Pompeii, the nearby town of Herculaneum, and other neighboring areas, the villa was buried by volcanic debris when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. With this in mind, archaeologists believe the petrified horse was “saddled up and ready to go” at the time of its death, as it might have been used to rescue Pompeii’s residents as Vesuvius was erupting.

Massimo Osanna, director of Pompeii’s archaeological park, believes the horses died of suffocation from either the ashes or the extremely hot vapors that emanated from Vesuvius, making it a “fierce and terrible end” for the animals.

Although Vesuvius’ most notable eruption took place over close to 2,000 years ago, making it the first event of its kind to be documented in detail, the volcano would erupt about three dozen times thereafter, as explained in an article published on the Oregon State University website. The most recent series of eruptions happened between 1913 and 1944 and was believed to mark the end of a cycle that kicked off in 1631 when an eruption killed about 4,000 people. Currently, Vesuvius is still considered an active volcano and is very likely to erupt again at some point in the future.

Before it was buried in tons of debris from Vesuvius, the Villa of the Mysteries’ terraces allowed for a good view of the Bay of Naples and Capri Island. The villa was first excavated in the early 20th century, though most of it was ultimately reburied as it became a popular target for looters. Per the Associated Press, Osanna expressed hopes that the villa will soon be opened for public viewing.

“The whole area will be excavated and returned to the public,” Osanna remarked, as quoted by BBC News.