World news: Pompeii chariot, Dead Sea Scrolls, and Australian rock art

A round-up of three Archaeological news stories from around the world, including the discovery of a chariot near Pompeii, new Dead Sea Scrolls in the Judean Desert, and early rock art in Australia.

Chariot discovered near Pompeii

Ongoing excavations at a large villa in Civita Giuliana, 700m north-west of Pompeii’s city walls, are revealing diverse discoveries, including the bodies of two people believed to have died during the Vesuvian eruption of AD 79 (see CA 373’s ‘World news’ column). Now the remains of an elaborate chariot have been found nearby, in a collapsed two-storey portico.

After careful excavation, it appears the majority of the chariot has survived, including bronze and tin medallions depicting scenes related to Eros, along with satyrs, nymphs, cupids, and other motifs associated with erotic themes. It is believed that this is a kind of ceremonial chariot called a pilentum, which would make it a unique find, as no other vehicle of this type has yet been found in modern-day Italy.

After conservation, it is expected the chariot will go on display in the Archaeological Park of Pompeii.

New Dead Sea Scrolls discovered

New Dead Sea Scroll fragments have been identified by researchers from the Israel Antiquities Authority during a project surveying caves in the Judaean Desert. These are the first fragments to be found in over 60 years, and consist of over 20 pieces of parchment belonging to the Minor Prophets Scroll, including sections of the books of Zechariah and Nahum.

The scrolls were discovered in Cave 8 in the wadi of Nahal Hever, which is known as the ‘Cave of Horror’, both for its location c.80m down a sheer rockface and for the remains of 40 individuals found there in the early 1960s, who are believed to have been Jewish refugees fleeing from Roman forces during the Bar-Kokhba Revolt of AD 132-135. It is thought the scrolls may have been stashed in the caves at the same time.

Image: Shai Halevi Israel Antiquities Authority.

Further objects possibly relating to the revolt were found during this most recent survey, including coins, arrowheads, spearheads, combs, sandals, and woven fabric.

Early rock art identified in Australia

A rock-art painting of a kangaroo – identified on the ceiling of a rock shelter in the Kimberley region of Western Australia in the 1990s – has now been scientifically dated for the first time by researchers working on the Kimberley Rock Art Dating project.

Six fossilised mud-wasp nests, found both above and below the painting, provided enough organic material for radiocarbon dating. This provided a likely date range of between 17,500 and 17,100 years ago, with a most probable date of c.17,300 years ago.