Extraordinary Pompeii discovery: Racehorse remains found among ancient city's ruins

Archaeologists have unearthed the final resting place of an ancient racehorse among the ruins of the ancient city of Pompeii in Italy.

The horse was discovered in Pompeii’s northern outskirts, beyond the walls of the Roman city. The stable where the horse belonged to a villa in Pompeii’s suburb of Civita Giuliana.

Experts discovered the horse’s remains when they were investigating tunnels used by tomb raiders, according to a Facebook post.


Described as an “extraordinary find,” the discovery reveals yet more gruesome details of the city’s devastation following the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Pompeii was quickly buried by volcanic ash, killing about 2,000 of the city’s residents, according to History.com.

In this picture taken Thursday, May 10, 2018, scaffoldings frame the remains of a horse which were found in a stable of a Pompeii villa, near Naples, Southern Italy. Archeologists immediately made a plaster cast of the animal which appears  to be surprisingly big, and probably belonging to a high rank family. The Villa is located outside the walls north of the Pompeii archaeological park, in an area called Civita Giuliana, and was found thanks to the illegal diggings of a group of tomb robbers,  after an investigation conducted by Carabinieri police. The Villa and its stable were buried in the Vesuvio eruption of 79 AD, together with the city of Pompeii. (Cesare Abbate/ANSA via AP)

Archaeologists made a plaster cast of the horse. (Cesare Abbate/ANSA via AP)

The site remained untouched for over 1,500 years until its rediscovery in the 18th century. During the 19th century, archaeologists used plaster to take casts from the vacuums that surrounded skeletons found in the compacted layer of ash. Left behind by the decay of organic remains, the vacuums offer an eerie snapshot of the volcano victims’ final moments. National Geographic notes the plaster casts’ lifelike poses show some victims, for example, crawling, or seated with head in hands.

Last week, Pompeii officials displayed a cast of the horse, which appeared to have been lying on its left flank when it died.


Pompeii director Massimo Osanna said the animal was a thoroughbred likely used for races, not farm work.

The horse's large size and the apparent wealth of the villa's owners prompted speculation that it was a racehorse, Sky News reports.

The villa's excavation also turned up kitchen utensils and part of a wooden bed.


Earlier this year, the body of a child, who had apparently been sheltering in Pompeii's central bath house complex, was found at the ancient site.

Vesuvius, which is the only active volcano on mainland Europe, experienced its last serious eruption in 1944, according to LiveScience.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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