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Donkeys, pigs, and dogs have all been found amongst the ruins of Pompeii, but the remains of a carbonized horse are the first example archaeologists have come across of that animal. While the discovery is great, the way it was found is unsettling.
The Local.it reports the horse was found in a stable, complete with a trough, beside a large Roman villa. Unfortunately, archaeologists were not the first to make the discovery – tomb raiders are responsible for unearthing the horse. Nonetheless, Massimo Osanna, the director of the Pompeii site, calls the horse an "extraordinary" find.
Authorities found the looters had dug a 60 meter (196.85 ft.) long network of tunnels under the villa, to search for frescoes and other precious artifacts. Laser scanners show the tunnels measure just 60 cm (23.62 inches) wide, according to Independent.ie. Steps have been taken to find the looters and archaeologists have begun excavating the area properly to try to avoid further destruction .
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Traces of an iron and bronze harness were located beside the horse’s head, which archaeologists believe suggests the animal was probably a parade horse that was specially bred to fulfill that action and very expensive. The Telegraph mentions there is also the possibility that the animal was a prized racing horse.
The remains of the horse were uncovered by looters. (Antonio Ferrara and Riccardo Siano )
The recently discovered horse measures 150 centimeters (59.06 inches) tall at the withers, somewhat short if compared to a modern horse, but experts say it would have been a rather large adult horse in ancient Pompeii. It was carbonized following the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD and no skeleton or flesh remains on its body. However, the form has been preserved through a technique which experts have been using to preserve casts of Pompeii’s human victims . The procedure involves injecting the empty body cavity with liquid plaster.
The Local.it says this is the first time archaeologists have found the complete outline of a horse at Pompeii. Experts were able to distinguish it as a horse, as opposed to a donkey, because of the left ear imprint which marks the ground under the animal’s head.
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The imprint of the horse's left ear. ( Parco Archeologico di Pompei )
A tomb dating to a later period was also found at the villa. It contained a man who died when he was 40-55 years old and Osanna says , "It shows that even after the eruption, people continued to live and to farm in Pompeii, on top of the layer of ash which destroyed the city." Amphora shards, fragments of kitchen utensils, and part of a wooden bed were also found during excavations.
This is the second major discovery to be reported from Pompeii in the last few weeks. On April 25, Osanna announced that archaeologists had found the skeleton of a child who died during Vesuvius’ eruption . The seven or eight-year-old sought shelter from the volcanic ash, gas, and pumice by crouching inside a public thermal bath.
The child’s skeleton was found in a crouching position in the bath complex of the town. ( Parco Archeologico de Pompeii )