By Tim Binnall
Archaeologists studying the ruins of Pompeii in Italy unearthed an incredibly well preserved and remarkably ornate ceremonial chariot. Described as an "extraordinary find" in a press release from the caretakers of the famed site, the vehicle remains nearly intact after 2,000 years and boasts its original four wheels and iron frame as well as "beautiful bronze and tin decorations." Incredibly, researchers were even able to identify organic remains from the chariot's ropes and the flowers that once adorned the cart.
The presence of the chariot was first detected in early January when a curious piece of iron "which suggested the presence of a significant buried artifact" was noticed poking out of some volcanic material within a portico where archaeologists were working. Over the next few weeks, experts painstakingly removed the hardened ash which encases the cart, growing increasingly amazed at what they were uncovering until a fuller picture of the ancient vehicle emerged. The landmark discovery was made all the more exceptional by the fact that it narrowly missed being found by looters who had actually tunneled around the chariot in search of plunder.
The chariot, archaeologists say, was likely what was known as a pilentum, which was "a transport vehicle used in the Roman world by the elites in ceremonial contexts" such as festivals, weddings, or parades. One expert explained to NPR that, in its day, the elaborately decorated horse-drawn wagon would have been akin to "an outright fancy, fancy car" like a Lamborghini. Although more standard vehicles have been recovered at Pompeii in the past, the director of the archaeological site marveled that nothing like this particular chariot has ever been found at the location nor anywhere else in the country.