Evidence of 2,000-year-old horses near the ancient ruins of Pompeii has been uncovered by archaeologists in Italy.
Excavations at an estate’s stable near present-day Naples uncovered the horses. One was described as wearing an elaborate military harness, a type used for military parades, and bronze trimmings, according to the Archaeological Park of Pompeii.
The harness suggests that the horse may have been prepared for an evacuation as Mount Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79, covering the area with volcanic ash and superhot vapors, according to local reports.
After the animals died and were buried in ash, their bodies decomposed, leaving impressions in the hardened ash. Archaeologists filled the voids with plaster, then removed the surrounding ash to see what had been there.
The horse was one of three found in the stable of Civita Giuliana on the city’s outskirts, though the void left by one of the horses was damaged from grave robbers who had tunneled into the estate, the park said.
“The horses were ready to be used, with their things,” Massimo Osanna, the director of the Pompeii Archaeological Park, told the Italian news agency ANSA. “We don’t know if the eruption surprised them all while they were preparing to make their escape. This will be revealed by the investigations.”
Excavations began at the site in July, though it was previously excavated in the early 1900s before reburied again, the park said.