Pompeian horse skeleton to be restored after decades of oblivion

The skeleton of a horse found in Pompeii back in 1938 and damaged by exposure will be restored. The horse was discovered by archaeologist Amedeo Maiuri, director of Pompeii from 1924 to 1961, in an area south of the Via del Abbondanza, which is believed to have been a stable. According to scholars, this horse was the kind used to transport goods. Also excavated at the time was a small square stone structure, probably a manger.

The approach taken at the time to such discoveries was to display them in the original context in which they were discovered, in keeping with the “museum-formation” effort to turn archaeological excavations into one big open-air museum. Therefore, the horse skeleton was mounted in a standing position on a metal frame. It was left in place and effectively abandoned for decades. During this time, some of the bones had degraded and the metal support had oxidized, causing the bones in contact with it to stain.

Now, with the help of modern technology, scientists have had the opportunity to correct these historical errors. The skeleton has already been laser scanned to create a complete 3D model. A frame-by-frame video of the skeleton scan and the creation of an early 3D model can be viewed below. The model will then be used as a reference point to disassemble the skeleton so that the bones can be restored, cleaned and stabilized. Missing parts will, if possible, be 3D-printed and put in place. The entire horse will then be assembled in a scientifically correct position on new fittings made from new materials better suited to the microclimate.

In addition, an important part of the plan is to create a 3D printed tactile model of the horse for the visually impaired. Visitors will be able to explore the model by touch with accompanying explanations printed in Braille.