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Scientists release photos of new Pompeii find: Horses remarkably preserved in volcanic ash

An archaeologist inspects the remains of a horse at the Pompeii archaeological site in Italy on Dec. 23. (Cesare Abbate/ANSA/AP)

Buried beneath volcanic ash and rubble, archaeologists discovered the remains of several horses Sunday in the suburbs of Pompeii.

According to BBC News, the animal skeletons and saddle were found inside a stable in an ancient villa. One was unearthed well-preserved and harnessed, with its legs bent at the knee, as if preparing to gallop through the gates.

The ancient Roman city near Naples was destroyed in 79 A.D. during the monstrous eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The infamous explosion killed thousands of people.

Massimo Osanna, general director of the Pompeii archaeological park, told Italian news agency ANSA that he believed the horse belonged to a high-ranking military officer and met a “fierce and terrible end."

The lavish estate, known as the Villa of Mysteries, overlooked the sea. Its grounds were home to wine presses and frescoes, and the horse remains were found near “fragments of wooden and bronze trimmings,” the BBC reported. Osanna said that once the site is fully excavated, it will be opened to the public.

Sunday’s discovery is among several recently at the site.

Since beginning excavations, archaeologists have uncovered dozens of skeletons.

In May, The Washington Post’s Meagan Flynn reported:

“Over the last week, the Archaeological Park of Pompeii has unveiled some recent discoveries at the site of Civita Giuliana outside the city walls stemming from its latest excavation. The excavation began last August… Along with the horse, whose skeletal remains were preserved intact, archaeologists found four rooms and the horse stable, a tomb containing the remains of an adult man, a wooden bed and an entire street of grand houses with large balconies.”

Mount Vesuvius, which remains an active volcano on mainland Europe, is a major tourist destination.

Last week, nearly 2,000 years after the historic explosion, an increase in seismic activity forced local law enforcement to put an evacuation plan in place, according to the Guardian. If needed, residents living in the surrounding area — populated by approximately 3 million people — will be transferred to Sardinia by boat.

** Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the horse remains were preserved in lava. They were found preserved in ash deposits from the a volcanic eruption. This story has been updated.

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