The ancient city of Herculaneum, near Pompeii, have yielded the first known example of a Roman throne.
Decorated with ivory bas-reliefs depicting ancient deities, the remains of the wooden throne were dug out between October and November at the southern Italian site in one of the Roman cities buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the year 79.
The artifact dates back to the first century, and although only two legs and a part of the back have survived, archaeologists at a news conference in Rome hailed it as an exceptional find, saying that so far they had only seen this kind of furniture in artistic depictions.
"It's the first original throne from Roman times that has survived until today," said Pietro Giovanni Guzzo, Pompeii's archaeological superintendent.
The remains were found buried 25 meters (82 feet) below ground near Herculaneum's Villa dei Papiri, a first century Roman country home that is believed to have been the residence of Julius Caesar's father-in-law.
The villa, so called because it has yielded a library of hundreds of ancient papyruses, has only been partially excavated and it is not yet clear if the throne belonged to the ancient residence, said Maria Paola Guidobaldi, the dig's director.
The throne depicts Greek mythological figures that were absorbed by Rome's culture and is decorated with images of the gods Attis and Dionysus, as well as pine cones and phalluses.
Experts said the reliefs recall the "Attideia" ceremonies, which commemorated the death and resurrection of the god Attis, husband and victim of the goddess Cibele, and were introduced in the Roman calendar by the Emperor Claudius.
The fragile remains will now undergo a lengthy restoration, while archaeologists hope to discover many more precious artifacts as the dig in the Villa dei Papiri continues, Guidobaldi said.
Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae, excavated from the 18th century onward, were buried under layers of volcanic ash by an eruption that killed thousands but preserved the sites for centuries, providing precious information on domestic life in the ancient world.
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