Unlooted Etruscan Tomb Complete with Sarcophagi and Treasures Unearthed in Italy
Archaeologists have made a rare discovery near the small town of Città della Pieve, near Perugia in Italy – a 2,400-year-old sealed and untouched Etruscan tomb. The burial chamber contains sarcophagi and a wealth of grave goods, providing a fascinating window into the mysterious civilization that disappeared around two millennia ago.
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. However, 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.
A map showing the extent of Etruria and the Etruscan civilization. The map includes the 12 cities of the Etruscan League and notable cities founded by the Etruscans. Image source: Wikipedia
Discovery of Intact Etruscan Tomb
Discovery News reports that the tomb was found by a farmer while he was plowing a field on his property near the town of Città della Pieve, near Perugia. When archaeologists were called in to investigate, they were surprised to find a perfectly sealed double door made from heavy stone. Inside, they discovered a rectangular chamber with two sarcophagi, four marble urns containing cremated remains, a marble head of a young man broken at the neck level, and numerous grave goods, including pottery, votive vases, and intact ceramic jars.
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The tomb was found near the picturesque and historic town of Città della Pieve (corriere pievese)
Sarcophagi and Their Inscription
Clarita Natalini of the archaeological superintendency of Umbria, told Discovery News that one of the sarcophagi is made of alabaster marble, while the other is covered with painted plaster.
The marble sarcophagus contains a male skeleton and bears a long inscription, including the name “Lars”, which may refer to the individual inside the coffin. Natalini and her team hope to be able to decipher more from the inscription, including the deceased’s family name, the name of his parents, and his age at death.
The sarcophagus covered with plaster also contained an inscription, however, the coffin was damaged in a collapse that occurred in antiquity and the inscription is now in thousands of fragments. Nevertheless, the sarcophagus remains sealed and archaeologists expect to find another skeleton inside.
The discovery of the Etruscan sarcophagi and inscriptions is significant because such findings are extremely rare, and hold the possibility of shedding more light on this ancient culture.
“The difficulty in understanding the Etruscan culture stems from the fact that not much of this culture survived,” research Petros Koutoupis wrote on Ancient Origins. “Despite deciphering the unique Etruscan language, very few inscriptions have been discovered, and of the few discovered, leaves us with more questions than answers to this enigmatic group of peoples. Besides, these inscriptions never give us insight into the culture itself, only their rituals which were even foreign to their neighbors of the time.”
“As mysterious as they were, it was through preserved Etruscan burials and tombs that the unbiased truth of these obscure peoples revealed itself,” Koutoupis adds “their sociopolitical organization, customs, and religion emerged; their views of the afterlife, the soul, and the spirituality within nature and the greater world; and more. Although, much like their inscriptions, many questions continue to remain unanswered”
A reclining figure on the lid of one of the marble urns found in the tomb. Credit: Soprintendenza Archeologia Dell’Umbria
An example of an elaborate Etruscan tomb: Wall painting in a burial chamber called Tomb of the Leopards at the Etruscan necropolis of Tarquinia in Lazio, Italy. Image source: Wikipedia
Discovery News reports that the contents of the newly-discovered tomb have been transferred to a museum in Città della Pieve in order to conduct restoration and further study. There are plans to display the findings to the public in the near future.
Featured image: Underground Etruscan tomb at Cerverteri (representational image). Photo source: BigStockPhoto.