At the sprawling villa from Civita Giuliana just north of Pompeii, archaeologists have unearthed an almost intact four-wheeled chariot, the first of its kind to be found in the Roman world. The chariot, which could seat one or two people, was discovered in a portico adjoining a stable where researchers discovered the remains of three horses in 2018. The chariot is extremely fragile, so archaeologists digitally documented it before dismantling it into 112 pieces, which they brought to a laboratory for further analysis and restoration. They also made plaster casts of imprints left by decaying organic material, including the tank’s wooden steering shaft and ropes that connected the mechanical elements of its armored wheels.
Researchers believe the tank is a pilentum, a type of vehicle known only from ancient sources that mention it was used by high-ranking women and priestesses. Its wooden sides are painted red and black and bear traces of floral motifs. At the rear of the vehicle, circular reliefs in bronze and other metals feature erotic imagery, including scenes of antics of followers of the god of wine, Bacchus, and the god of love, Eros. “The decoration is clearly linked to the world of love,” says archaeologist Luana Toniolo of the Pompeii Archaeological Park. “That’s why we first thought the chariot might be linked to weddings. Now we think it was probably used in some sort of campaign ritual. To learn more, go to “Dig Deeper in the past of Pompeii”.