Pompeii’s VIP Vehicle

Excavations at the Roman villa of Civita Giuliana have uncovered a remarkable four-wheeled ceremonial chariot.

Ongoing excavations at the Roman villa of Civita Giuliana, just beyond the city walls of Pompeii, have uncovered a remarkable four-wheeled ceremonial chariot, possibly a pilentum used in processions by priestesses and women.

The large chariot is in an impressive state of preservation, with its iron components and bronze decorative elements still intact. Archaeologists also found the remains of carbonised wood, and even the imprints of organic materials like rope and flowers that once adorned it.

The recently unearthed ceremonial chariot at Civita Giuliana. PHOTOS: by kind permission of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii.

Massimo Osanna, the outgoing director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, commented that the chariot is unlike others found in Italy, but similar to one found in Thrace in northern Greece. Its rich decoration includes medallions and studs with satyrs, nymphs, and cupids, which hint that it may have been involved in marriage celebrations.The area in which the chariot was unearthed is a double-level portico near the stable where three horses (including one still in its elaborate bronze harness) were found in 2018. The portico’s wooden ceiling was also unearthed; and archaeobotanical analyses of the carobinsed wood have identified that it was made of deciduous English oak.

The continuing excavations were launched in 2017 (in cooperation with the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Torre Annunziata) not only to investigate the villa, but also to prevent the looting of this important site, and to assess the extent of the damage already caused by illegal tunnels.