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Left; Archaeologists at the opening of the Etruscan tomb dating back to the 7th century BC at the Osteria necropolis in Vulci, Italy.  Right; Artifacts in the tomb. Source: Municipality of Montalto di Castro

Untouched 2,600-Year-Old Fully Intact Etruscan Tomb Uncovered in Italy

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In the archaeological area of the ancient Etruscan city Vulci, a new, fully intact double-chambered Etruscan tomb was uncovered in the Osteria necropolis. The tomb, uncovered in April, has finally been opened by archaeologists in the preceding week, with the double chamber digging into the rock. The entrance, guarded by slabs of stone, were removed to reveal a rich bounty - pottery, ancient wine vessels, ornamental accessories, iron objects, bronze artifacts such as a cauldron, and a tablecloth from a funeral banquet, almost all in flawless condition.

Double-Chambered, Wine-Drunk

The two chambers, dated to the 7th century BC, were meticulously carved into the pliable volcanic tufa, reports Sivaggia. The initial chamber revealed four Etruscan transport amphorae designed for holding locally produced wine. In contrast, the second chamber unveiled an assortment of amphorae and ceramics originating from the eastern Greek regions, encompassing Ionia and Corinth, along with locally crafted items, including the distinctive black bucchero pottery.

A selection of artifacts discovered within the 7th century BC Etruscan tomb, which was unveiled by archaeologists last month. (Municipality of Montalto di Castro)

A selection of artifacts discovered within the 7th century BC Etruscan tomb, which was unveiled by archaeologists last month. (Municipality of Montalto di Castro)

Notably, within Chamber B, experts surmise that the two amphorae originated from Chios, renowned for producing the most sought-after wine in the Greco-Roman world. This chamber also revealed a tripod bowl and various iron objects, adding to the intrigue.

Etruria, the heartland of the Etruscan civilization, was rich in fertile soil suitable for vineyards. The Etruscans cultivated and produced wines of exceptional quality, particularly the highly prized Chian wine from the island of Chios, which enjoyed a prestigious reputation throughout the Greco-Roman world.

The tomb, popularly referred to as the ‘Tomb of the Silver Hands’, has also yielded a tablecloth used in the Etruscan ritual of the "last meal." The arrangement of the various artifacts strongly suggests that this burial site was intended for a high-class Etruscan family. Simona Carosi, archaeologist in charge of the Archaeological and Nature Park, emphasizes how this find “gives us back in an unusual way the actual funerary banquet, as the Etruscans had laid it centuries and centuries ago.”

The Osteria necropolis has a history of revealing amazing archaeological treasures, including the enigmatic ‘Tomb of the Sun and the Moon, the ‘Panathenaic’, ‘Carved Ceilings’, and a grand burial known as the ‘Tomb of the Sphinx’, all dating back to the 6th century BC.

During the zenith of Etruscan culture, which flourished in central Italy from the 8th to the 4th centuries BC, tomb construction and the wine trade played pivotal roles in their society. Etruscan tombs from this era are renowned for their architectural sophistication, often resembling elaborately decorated houses with frescoes, pottery, and valuable possessions. Some of the most iconic Etruscan tombs, such as those in Cerveteri and Tarquinia, showcase intricate burial chambers that vividly depict Etruscan life, beliefs, and customs.

The entrance of the Etruscan tomb in Vulci. (Municipality of Montalto di Castro)

The entrance of the Etruscan tomb in Vulci. (Municipality of Montalto di Castro)

Entrance and Layout of the Etruscan Tomb: An Insight into Elite Vulci Lifestyle

Explains Carlos Casini, director of the Vulci foundation, to the Il Messagero, highlighting that the most important is the architectural layout, which, “Appears to be characterized by a septum spared in the rock that creates an archway between the dromos, that is, the short corridor with steps, and the vestibule, from which there was access to the two chambers, the front and the left: the one, usual, on the right is missing, evidently because the space had already been occupied by other tombs.”

Archaeologists and authorities in one of the tomb chambers. (Municipality of Montalto di Castro)

Archaeologists and authorities in one of the tomb chambers. (Municipality of Montalto di Castro)

According to reports from Finestre sull'Arte, the recovered artifacts from this Etruscan tomb provide invaluable scientific and historical insights into life in Vulci during that era and the lifestyle of its aristocracy at the peak of the city's prominence, with a particular emphasis on the amphorae and its role in the ancient wine trade.

The entrance to the site was sealed by tufa slabs, which were painstakingly removed one by one, generating a growing sense of anticipation among both the archaeologists the audience. Carosi concluded that, "The Latium Maremma and southern Etruria are regions brimming with artistic and cultural treasures, with a significant potential for tourism. The region is committed to further enriching these areas through increased funding for excavation projects, recognizing that they hold the promise of becoming magnets for high-quality tourism in the future."

Top image: Left; Archaeologists at the opening of the Etruscan tomb dating back to the 7th century BC at the Osteria necropolis in Vulci, Italy.  Right; Artifacts in the tomb. Source: Municipality of Montalto di Castro

By Sahir Pandey

References

Georgiu, R. 2023. Archaeologists Open Tomb Untouched for 2,600 Years. Available at: https://www.newsweek.com/archaeologists-open-tomb-untouched-2600-years-1839973.

Kayra, O. 2023. Archaeologists opened an untouched Etruscan tomb. Available at: https://arkeonews.net/archaeologists-opened-an-untouched-etruscan-tomb/.

Kantini, Flavia. 2023. Ritrovata e aperta una tomba etrusca inviolata da secoli. Available at: https://siviaggia.it/notizie/ritrovata-aperta-tomba-etrusca-inviolata-secoli/417447/

Laratta, A. 2023. Vulci, archaeologists open an untouched Etruscan tomb: here's what they found there. Available at: https://www.finestresullarte.info/en/archaeology/vulci-archaeologists-open-an-untouched-etruscan-tomb-here-s-what-they-found-there

 
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Sahir

I am a graduate of History from the University of Delhi, and a graduate of Law, from Jindal University, Sonepat. During my study of history, I developed a great interest in post-colonial studies, with a focus on Latin America. I... Read More

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