An ancient Roman wood and ivory throne has been unearthed at a dig in Herculaneum, Italian archaeologists said, hailing it as the most significant piece of wooden furniture ever discovered there.
The throne was found during an excavation in the Villa of the Papyri, the private house formerly belonging to Julius Caesar's father-in-law, Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, built on the slope of Mt Vesuvius.
The name of the villa derives from the impressive library containing thousands of scrolls of papyrus discovered buried under metres of volcanic ash after the Vesuvius erupted on August 24, AD79.
Restoration of the throne is still ongoing with restorers painstakingly trying to piece together parts of the ceremonial chair.
While other wooden objects have been dug out in nearby Pompeii, experts have never found such a significant ceremonial piece of furniture. Previously such pieces have only been observed in paintings or made of marble.
"The find of ancient wooden furniture is not an absolute novelty in Herculaneum or Pompeii. Organic materials in fact were preserved in these cities because of the peculiar way in which they were submerged by the Vesuvius volcanic mud," said the head of the dig, Maria Paola Guidobaldi. "But we have never found furniture of such a significant structure and decoration."
Little is known about how the throne would have been used but the elaborate decorations discovered on it celebrate the mysterious cult figure of Attis.
The most precious relief shows Attis, a life-death-rebirth deity, collecting a pine cone next to a sacred pine tree.