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Fossilized horse remains have been found in a barn in the vicinity of the center of Pompeii

An archaeologist inspects the remains of a horse skeleton at the archaeological site of Pompeii Sunday. (Cesare Abbate/ANSA, Via AP)

Archaeologists in Italy have discovered the fossilized remains of several horses in the barn of an old villa in a suburb of Pompeii, near the modern city of Naples.

Massimo Osanna told the Italian news agency ANSA that the horses were probably suffocated by volcanic ash or killed by boiling water vapour in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A. D. The eruption destroyed the bustling city of Pompeii and her sister city Herculaneum, buried hundreds of people and animals in ash, which preserved their remains.

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Osanna said the remains of three or four horses were discovered. One of the animals was used, and workers is also a saddle richly decorated with bronze trimmings.

According to Osanna, the villa belonged to a high ranking Roman military officer, possibly a general. He hopes that the villa will eventually be open for public tours.

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The villa’s terraces had views over the Bay of Naples and the island of Capri. The area was previously excavated, during the early 1900’s, but later re-buried.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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