Hi and welcome back! Archaeology has always been a favorite topic of mine. So I was excited to run across this story from NPR about a very fancy chariot discovered at Pompeii. This venerable site continues to amaze us! Today, Lord Snow Presides over a new discovery out of Pompeii, one of the most fascinating archaeological sites in the world.
Pompeii’s Civita Giuliana: Secure, Contain, Protect.
This story comes to us from NPR a few days ago:
A ‘Lamborghini’ Of Chariots Is Discovered At Pompeii. Archaeologists Are Wowed
It’s a simply astonishing find.
Here’s the backstory involved. I found it astonishing as well, in and of itself!
There’s a villa north of Pompeii, outside the city, that archaeologists have named “Civita Giuliana.” Like most such villas of its time, this one featured a residential section and a “productive” one in its 15 rooms.
Vesuvius’ eruption in 79 CE buried the villa in ash along with, obviously, Pompeii itself and much of the surrounding area. For at least a little while after the eruption, people inhabited the area again.
Folks have known about Civita Giuliana in the archaeological sense since at least the early 1900s, when the first excavations began there. In 1994, archaeologists published a report on the site.
In recent decades, perhaps in response to the attention the site got in the 1990s, grave robbers began tunneling around the area looking for treasure. The plundering and damage got so bad that the authorities there had to get involved.
The Big Project.
In 2017, a government collaboration with a cultural-heritage protection group began a big excavation project there. The project aimed to protect and preserve the villa from damage. And oh boy, did those archaeologists find a lot of great things! According to various writeups I’ve seen, like this one, archaeologists have found all kinds of everyday utensils, goods, and containers in the portico section unearthed. They also found two bodies there this past November.
Archaeologists also found a stable. Amazingly, the tunnels the robbers dug managed to bypass part of the stable, though these tunnels literally touched the chariot at the heart of today’s story.
Later, they found the preserved body of a horse in that stable. It wore tack indicating that it must have been quite valuable to its owner. They’ve found three horses in all, in fact, one wearing “a rich military harness.” These are the only horses found in Pompeii so far.
This site is SMOKIN’ hot!
But one big surprise still lay in store for the archaeologists on the dig.
The ‘Lamborghini’ Chariot of Pompeii.
A few days ago, archaeologists announced the discovery of an absolutely stunning ceremonial chariot that had been stashed in the portico.
Oh sure, they’ve found chariots before. Every find of every chariot is important in its way, and treated as such. Pompeii Sites mentions at least three others. (If you’re interested in this story, they’ve also got full maps of the site itself and more background. Their Twitter feed is my newest follow.) But those other chariots are nothing like this one. This one’s clearly ceremonial, something to use in wedding processions more than for everyday travel — or perhaps in religious rituals and processionals.
A few sources mention this kind of chariot, calling it a pilentum. However, nobody’s ever found one in Italy before now. This is the first one. One official has said there’s “no precedent” for this find.
It’s very fancy, too, sounding more like a light carriage than a chariot. Pompeii Sites says its four iron wheels are “connected by an advanced mechanical system.” Ancient crafters decorated it with medallions and studs depicting all kinds of erotic scenes with satyrs and nymphs. Passengers rode on it in comfort and style, too, thanks to its metal armrests and backrests.
It’s absolutely incredible in every single way. And archaeologists are, accordingly, extremely excited about it all. As you know, I do love seeing scientists getting all excited.
Pompeii and the Protection of the Past.
There’s so much I could say here. Like so many other people, I’m fascinated by Pompeii. It boggles the mind, its story of utter destruction — and through that destruction, preservation of a kind and completeness that exists virtually nowhere else. Through Pompeii, we’ve gotten a nearly-unprecedented look at how people actually lived in ancient times. We even know what kind of fast food people in the area bought and ate back then!
For many years now, the Italian government has been playing against time to preserve and protect this site and its artifacts before looters destroy everything. This time, they won one of those skirmishes. It breaks my heart to know they’ve probably lost many others that they’ll never even know happened.
But this time, ah, this time they won.
Today, Lord Snow Presides over archaeology sites: what they show us about our own past, the secrets and surprises they still undoubtedly hold, and the never-ending battle to preserve them.
NEXT UP: The double message evangelical men send about women’s bodies continues, it seems.
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About Lord Snow Presides (LSP)
Lord Snow Presides is our off-topic weekly chat series. Lord Snow was my very sweet white cat. He actually knew quite a bit. Though he’s passed on, he now presides over a suggested topic for the day. Of course, please feel free to chime in with anything on your mind: there’s no official topic on these days. We especially welcome pet pictures!
Last thoughts: For a while, I wanted to be an archaeologist as a kid, after discovering my extreme nearsightedness would instantly disqualify me from serving in the Space Program. Anybody else remember that kids’ hardcover book/activity set series about archaeology and ancient history? The one about Ancient Egypt had a giant gold King Tut mask across its front and taught readers how to make a mask and a puzzle reassembling a clay amphora. It also contained a simple board game involving two lines of indentions and little stones, and an Egyptian take on Snakes and Ladders. This would have been published in the 1970s.