An intact Etruscan tomb, complete with sarcophagi, a full array of grave goods and a mysterious marble head, has has been brought to light in the Umbria region of Italy, in what promises to be one of the most important archaeological findings in recent history.
Dated to the end of the 4th century B.C., the burial site was found by a farmer who opened a void in the earth while working with his plow in a field near Città della Pieve, a small town some 30 miles southwest of Perugia.
“It was a totally unexpected discovery. The area is away from the sites visited by tomb robbers and indeed the burial is undisturbed,” Clarita Natalini of the archaeological superintendency of Umbria, told Discovery News.
Finding an undisturbed Etruscan tomb is an extremely rare event that has the potential to reveal more about one of the ancient world’s most fascinating and mysterious cultures.
The Etruscans were a fun- loving and eclectic people who among other things taught the French how to make wine, the Romans how to build roads, and introduced the art of writing into Europe. They began to flourish around 900 B.C., and dominated much of Italy for five centuries.
Known for their art, agriculture, fine metalworking and commerce, they began to decline during the fifth century B.C., as the Romans grew in power. By 300-100 B.C., they eventually became absorbed into the Roman empire.
Since their puzzling, non-Indo-European language was virtually extinguished (they left no literature to document their society), the Etruscans have long been considered one of antiquity’s great enigmas.
Much of what we know about them comes from their cemeteries. Only the richly decorated tombs they left behind have provided clues to fully reconstruct their history.
In this way, the burial in Città della Pieve looks more than promising. As Natalini and her team reached the dromos (the corridor leading to the tomb’s entrance) they found themselves in front of a perfectly sealed double door made from heavy stone.
Once opened, the tomb revealed a 16 square-foot rectangular chamber with two sarcophagi, four marble urns and various grave goods. One of the sarcophagi, made from stone, bears a long inscription.
So far Natalini and colleagues have been able to read the word “Laris.” Lars is a common Etruscan male first name. The stone coffin contains the skeleton of a male individual.
Natalini and her team expect to find more information in the inscription, such as the deceased’s family name, the name of his parents, and possibly his age at death.
The other sarcophagus, covered with painted plaster, also shows an inscription.
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