Volunteers and experts revealed to the world a discovery of an intact Etruscan tomb in Italy’s Umbria region. More than 2,000 years old, the tomb showed no signs of looting, which is common with such antiquities. The tomb was found in November along a road in the San Donnino valley near the picturesque town of Città della Pieve. The dig was done under the supervision of the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage of Umbria Elena Calandra and Dr. Clarita Natalini, an archaeologist. The site was constantly under police guard.
The local fire brigade brought special equipment to assist in removal
A sarcophagus weighed approximately 3000 pounds
Excavating on the site, archaeologist discovered the “dromos” – a processional avenue or corridor path that led to the tomb itself 40 feet below the surface. The site had been apparently erased centuries ago by a landslide. There the archaeologists entered through a double door where they found significant evidence of burial offerings, as well as two sculpted sarcophagi. Inside, they found several other artifacts, including funerary urns and a sculpted marble head. One sarcophagus has the name “Laris” inscribed on it.
A view of the "dromos" leading to the tomb entrance
The other sarcophagus also has an inscription that, however, was damaged centuries ago. The tomb dates to approximately 2,300 years ago. One of the sarcophagi weighed approximately 3,000 pounds and was lifted by crane from the site with help from the local fire brigade.
There were two sarcophagi found in the chamber
Each of the three funerary urns depicted a well-sculpted male figures on their lids. They were made of travertine and alabaster. The burial chamber itself measured approximately 5 yards square in its interior and had been dug into the soil on site.
A lid from one of the funerary urns
On October 24, a farmer was plowing the field above the tomb when his machine jammed. This led to the extraordinary find. Archaeologist Natalini said that the site was found far from sites combed by tomb raiders. More tombs may be in the area, prompting archaeologists to eventually use ground-penetrating radar to seek them out.
The excavators discovered that the marble head in the Città della Pieve tomb had been mysteriously broken off at the neck. Natalini said that the head depicts a young male and could perhaps have been part of a statue that had once honored one of those entombed at the site. Among the other artifacts found were an egg-shaped amphora, small undecorated ceramic vessels, as well as fragments of bronze.
There was also found a bronze strigil: a curved blade or scraper used by Greeks and Romans to remove dirt and moisture from the skin following a steam bath. All of the artifacts were taken to the Museum of Santa Maria dei Servi in Città della Pieve, which is about 30 miles from Perugia.
Little is known about the Etruscans, who preceded the Romans in prominence on the Italian peninsula. Nonetheless, some experts consider that their cultural contributions to Europe may be incalculable. In 2013, for example, a study showed the French winemaking can be traced to the Etruscans of 525 B.C. They are also believed to have taught road building to the Romans, and introduced writing to Europe based on an alphabet borrowed from the Semitic Phoenicians, who came from what is now Syria and Lebanon.
While their affinity for Greek culture is evident, the Etruscans had a culture of their own. Their civilization was centered on what is now modern Tuscany in central Italy. The first Etruscan inscriptions appear around 700 B.C., while the Etruscans themselves continued to be prominent until around 400 B.C. when their assimilation by Rome was nearly complete.
Their language is not of Indo-European origin, as is Greek or Latin, and for a time some believed they may be of Hittite origin. The ancient Greeks lumped them together with “Pelagasians,” who they knew to have preceded them in the Mediterranean basin. However, modern DNA analysis shows that their ancestry matches that of Neolithic peoples who lived in the region before the arrival of the ancestors of Rome.
A head from a decapitated statue
Likewise, the Basques of Spain and France have a mysterious origin since their language is also not Indo-European. They are also believed to be descended from inhabitants of Europe who preceded the Indo-Europeans such as the Celts, Teutons, Slavs, Latins, and Greeks.
The minister for culture of the region, Carmine Pugliese, said that the artifacts will soon be put on display. Pugliese said, “This discovery will enrich the already considerable artistic heritage of Città della Pieve.”