Archaeologists have unearthed an elaborated Roman chariot in a well-preserved condition near Italy's Pompeii, according to the announcement of the archaeological park on Saturday.
The four-wheeled processional carriage was found in the portico to stables where the remains of three horses were unearthed in 2018, including one still in its harness.
Pompeii was buried in ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D., killing between 2,000 and 15,000 people.
"A large ceremonial chariot with four wheels, along with its iron components, beautiful bronze and tin decorations, mineralized wood remains and imprints of organic materials (from the ropes to the remains of floral decoration), has been discovered almost intact," a statement issued by the archaeological park said.
"This is an exceptional discovery... which has no parallel in Italy thus far -- in an excellent state of preservation."
The excavation site is known as the Civita Giuliana, a suburban villa that lies just a few hundred meters from the ancient city of Pompeii.
The excavation is part of a program aimed at fighting illegal activity in the area, including tunnel digging to reach artifacts that can be sold on illicit markets.
Looters missed the room where the chariot had lain for almost 2,000 years, tunneling by on both sides, the park's statement said.
Specialists took great care to unearth the vehicle, for example by pouring plaster into voids "to preserve the imprint of any organic material" that had decomposed, it added.
The park said this had allowed it to emerge well preserved down to the imprints of ropes, "thus revealing the chariot in all of its complexity."
"Pompeii continues to amaze with all of its discoveries, and it will continue to do so for many years yet, with 20 hectares (50 acres) still to be excavated," Culture Minister Dario Franceschini was quoted as saying.
"It is an extraordinary discovery for the advancement of our knowledge of the ancient world," added Massimo Osanna, outgoing director of the park.
"What we have is a ceremonial chariot which was employed not for everyday use or for agricultural transport, but to accompany community festivities, parades and processions."
Pompeii's remarkably well-preserved remains have slowly been uncovered by teams of archaeological specialists. Among the recent archaeological findings of the site, a 2,000-year-old fast-food stand comes to the forefront. Pompeii is Italy's third most visited tourist site, drawing more than 3.9 million visitors in 2019.
The ancient city was closed after the coronavirus struck and only reopened on Jan.18.
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