Archaeologists Uncover 2,600-Year-Old Etruscan Prince
Archaeologists made an extraordinary finding when they opened a tomb in Italy that had been sealed for 2,600 years – the skeletonized body of an Etruscan prince, possibly a relative to Tarquinius Priscus, the legendary fifth king of Rome.
The Etruscans inhabited part of western central Italy, roughly the area of modern Tuscany. They learned much from the Greeks but had their own distinctive character, which influenced the neighbouring Italian peoples, including the Romans – they taught the French how to make wine, the Romans how to build roads, and introduced the art of writing into Europe.
Ancient Etruria was rich in mineral ores, agricultural resources and valuable timber from the forests, which enabled them to flourish from 900 BC to around 500 BC. As the Romans grew in power, they eventually became absorbed into the Roman empire.
Despite their massive influence in Europe, little remains of the Etruscans, as their literature and language did not survive. The only knowledge of the Etruscans has come from archaeological evidence together with the writings of Greek and Roman authors, making the latest discovery all the more significant as it promises to reveal new insights on one of the ancient world’s most fascinating cultures.
The Etruscan tomb was found in Tarquinia, a hill town about 50 miles northwest of Rome, blocked by a perfectly sealed stone slab. Inside the vaulted chamber, the archaeologists found a complete skeleton lying on a stone bed with a spear next to the body. Brooches were found on his chest, indicating that the individual was once dressed with a mantle.
At his feet stood a large bronze basin and a dish with food remains, while the stone table on the right might have contained the incinerated remains of another individual.
“It’s a unique discovery, as it is extremely rare to find an inviolate Etruscan tomb of an upper-class individual. It opens up huge study opportunities on the Etruscans,” said Alessandro Mandolesi, of the University of Turin.
Mandolesi and his team believe the individual was a member of Tarquinia’s ruling family. The underground chamber was found beside a large mound known as ‘the Queen Tomb’, which is almost identical to an equally impressive mound known as ‘the King’s Tomb’, 600 feet away.
“The entire area would have been off limits to anybody but the royal family,” Mandolesi said.
Further analysis is being conducted on the remains of the individuals and the artefacts found at the site which Discovery News will be reporting back on in due course.