Nearly two thousand years ago, on an August (or possibly an October) day, the Roman city of Pompeii suffered a terrible destiny. Nearby, Mount Vesuvius erupted, releasing 100,000 times more thermal energy than the atomic bombs that decimated Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the close of World War II. Mount Vesuvius was only 8 kilometers (5 miles) away. Many people in Pompeii and the adjacent Herculaneum could not flee due to poverty or physical limitations despite the warning signs. Residents of the ancient resort died one of the most horrifying deaths possible, their blood boiling, their flesh burning away, and their skulls exploding from the heat as their cities were coated in volcanic ash and pyroclastic flow.

The city was hidden for ages, covered in ash layers. However, it was rediscovered in the middle of the 18th century. Ever since, archaeological digs at the city frozen in time have revealed glimpses of life in the old Roman world. Along with memes, myths, and much masturbation, Pompeii has also given us enchanted landscapes, heartbreaking family moments, and other things.

Archaeological Park of Pompeii

This week, three ancient horses were discovered in a stable in the “Villa dei Misteri,” or “Villa of Mysteries,” adding to this veritable treasure trove. Archaeologists are calling this finding “rare importance.”


“The three horses must have belonged to the ‘noblest breed’ of display animals,” explained Massimo Osanna, director of the Pompeii archaeological park. “Their imposing size indicates this, likely the result of selective breeding and the quality of their iron and bronze harnesses.”

The cast of the horse was found within the stable. Archaeological Park of Pompeii

At least one of the animals was discovered already harnessed and prepared to aid the unfortunate Pompeians as they attempted to flee the explosion, evidence of the city’s almost instantaneous devastation.

The investigation began in March, but the team has now finished the excavation, showing the second and third horses in addition to one significant find, an elaborate style of saddle and harness that reveals who the animals’ owner may have been.

The high caliber of the other artifacts found in the villa and the saddle, a wooden and bronze “four-horned” type that gave stability before stirrups were invented, point to the horses owned by a high-ranking military official, possibly a Roman general.

“These exceptional discoveries confirm that this was a prestigious estate, with richly frescoed and furnished rooms and sumptuous sloping terraces facing onto the Gulf of Naples and Capri,” described Osanna. “[There was] an efficient servant’s quarter, with a farmyard, oil and wine warehouses, and densely cultivated lands.”

Archaeologists could not make a cast of the third horse because of grave robbers tunneling through the site. Archaeological Park of Pompeii

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