I’m not sure if you’ve been keeping up with the news, and if you haven’t, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but the thriving Roman city of Pompeii was completely buried under ash from the eruption of Mt.Vesuvius in 79 CE. Terrible, right? I probably should have told you sooner. Also, if you’re into him, I have some bad news about Jesus Christ from a bit before this happened. It’s not all bad news, though: it seems that after 1,942 years a really sweet ceremonial chariot has been found! And, considering its age, it’s in shockingly good shape!
I mean, look at this thing! I’m kinda surprised our own David Tracy hasn’t made a bid on it already!
While a few mundane, garum-getter wagons and carts have been found at Pompeii before, this find is unique because this is the ancient Roman equivalent of a luxury automobile. Eric Poehler, the man who wrote the freaking book on Pompeii traffic and transport, described the find as
“Many of the vehicles I’d written about before … are your standard station wagon or vehicle for taking the kids to soccer. This is a Lamborghini. This is an outright fancy, fancy car.”
This vehicle seems to be a ceremonial carriage, like the ancient equivalent of one of those stretch limos bridesmaids wave bottles of champagne out the sunroofs of in Vegas. In fact, it’s likely it may have been used in marriage processions. This kind of vehicle was known as a pilentium.
The carriage is incredibly well-preserved, and like all really classy fancy vehicles, has a good assortment of erotic art, in this case tin medallions that show cupids going at it in various ways:
Mmm-MMMM-mmmm! Man, that is some hot tinwork, amirite? All four large iron wheels are preserved as well, and while sources suggest they were “connected by an advanced mechanical system” which might mean that there was some sort of suspension? I can’t really tell from the images, but some kind of leaf-spring setup may have been possible, as they were known to Roman chariot-builders.
The body of the carriage was made of beech wood, with bronze decorative elements and panels. There was a bench seat with metal arms and backrests for the driver and a passenger.
Nearby, a stable was found with a large horse, suggesting a likely drivetrain for this classy ride.
It appears that a reconstruction of the chariot will be attempted by the archaeologists:
“With the in situ micro-excavation completed, the various elements of the chariot have been transported to the laboratory of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, where the restorers are working to complete the removal of volcanic material which still engulfs certain metal elements, and to begin the lengthy restoration and reconstruction of the chariot.”
Exciting! I wonder if they’ll rent it out for parties?