After the deluge…

At the end of last October violent storms hit the Tuscan coast causing an estimated 150,000 euros of damage and the hilltop Etruscan city of Populonia caught the full force of the wind and rain. Parts of the Etruscan necropolis at Baratti were inundated with mud and flood waters leading the archaeological authorities to call on the help of local volunteers to help clear the affected areas. The storm also caused the collapse of a part of the city wall, triggering emergency rescue excavations by the superintendency.

Storm Damage at the Via Romanella, Populonia

Storm Damage at the Via Romanella, Populonia (Source Greenreport .it

These have led to some unexpected discoveries that will shed light on the earliest phases of the city. In a news conference in Piombino, Dr Andrea Camilli of the Tuscan archaeological superintendency, presented the discoveries. Of particular interest is an unusual burial from the Villanovan period (10th-8th Centuries BCE). Usually, bodies were cremated in this period, before burial in a characteristic ‘biconical’ vase (in the shape of two cones, base to base). This new find is different. Two young bodies were buried, intact, in two jars placed end to end in a stone lined grave, without being cremated. They were buried with a quantity of bronze artifacts. The excavation is taking place in difficult wet conditions and the finds have yet to be studied so it is too early to comment on the age or sex of the bodies and their date. The fact that the individuals were not cremated provides a rare opportunity for bioarchaeological investigations into a period where little is known about the physical anthropology of the population – given the prevalence of the destructive cremation ritual. The artifacts should, when they are conserved and studied, provide a good indication of the date of the burials.

The first photographs give a vivid impression of the extraordinary finds and the difficult working conditions. 

The Populonia grave burial

Stone grave with a large jar (left) and a biconical urn (right). Source: La Nazione!/httpImage/image.JPG_gen/derivatives/gallery_800/image.JPG.

Populonia skeletons

Two skeletons excavated in difficult watery conditions. Source: La Nazione!/httpImage/image.JPG_gen/derivatives/gallery_800/image.JPG.

Populonia bronze artifacts

Bronze artifacts in the course of excavation in wet conditions. Source: La Nazione!/httpImage/image.JPG_gen/derivatives/gallery_800/image.JPG.

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Etruscan tomb discovered at Città della Pieve – part 2

As an update to the earlier post on the Etruscan tomb discovered at Città della Pieve, the archaeological authorities, directed by Clarita Natalini, have been working hard, excavating the tomb and coordinating local authorities to protect the archaeological heritage. A long entrance passage (dromos) has been found leading to a single chamber, that was sealed with a stone double door. Inside, a third sarcophagus with a cover in the form of a reclining figure was found that had traces of paint in the eyes. A further isolated head was also found, that may suggest that the tomb may originally have held at least one more sarcophagus and may also indicate that the tomb had been disturbed at some time in the past. A local web media outlet is following the excavation and has more photos of the local fire and rescue service assisting with the heavy lifting of the sarcophaghi.

Members of the fire service preparing to lift a sarcophagus. Photo:

Source: Interestingly, the sarcophagus in the picture is not one with a lid in the form of a reclining figure, it has a lid in the form of a pitched roof, so it looks like the full story of the tomb is still emerging. Other finds have included table ware, a jar, an amphora, a bronze vase and a bronze strigil for scraping clean oiled skin.

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Etruscan tomb discovered at Città della Pieve

On the evening of Sunday 25th October 2015, a farmer, working a field near Città della Pieve, opened a void in the earth with his plough. Inside, rising from the earth, were the heads of two stone sculptures of reclining Etruscan figures. An Etruscan chamber tomb has been discovered, complete with sarcophagi and their sculpted lids, dating to the 3rd century BCE.

The tomb when it was discovered

The tomb when it was discovered. Photo:


The site at San Donnino Fondovalle, a few km south of Città della Pieve, is now under the protection of the local Carabinieri and rescue excavations are being prepared by the Archaeological Superintendency of Umbria. Dottoressa Clarita Natalini is leading the investigations.

Carabinieri protecting the discovery.

Carabinieri protecting the discovery. Photo:










The find was first reported by the Umbrian online news site First indications are that the tomb contains two large sarcophagi of fine grained travertine stone that are covered with lids in the form of male figures reclining on cushions leaning on their right elbows and holding a sacrificial dish (patera) in their left hands. Each wears a long robe and some headgear. reports that one has an inscription starting ‘Laris’. This will be the first name, Lars, of the dead person whose cremated remains were interred in the sarcophagus. The name is the most common Etruscan first name, and the inscription will most likely go on to give his family name, the name of his parents and perhaps his age at death. This style of burial is typical of the area around the Etruscan city at Chiusi which lies 10km north of the discovery.

View of the interior of the tomb.

View of the interior of the tomb. Photo:










Finding a new Etruscan tomb, or possibly cemetery, if there are other tombs nearby, is a relatively rare event. Should the tomb turn out to be undisturbed it would be an extremely rare discovery. The vast majority of tombs of this type were discovered centuries ago, before the development of scientific archaeology. An undisturbed tomb would potentially provide precious details of not just the human remains and the objects buried with the dead, but also the burial rituals involved in cremating, filling a sarcophagus and then interring it in a family chamber tomb.

I’ll post more details as they emerge.


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Welcome to Etruscan Times!

This blog discusses anything that relates to the Etruscans – the Mediterranean people who lived in modern-day Central Italy between about 2000-3000 thousand years ago.  The title Etruscan Times, reflects a thirst for news about the Etruscans, and also an intention to include a wide range of discussion of news that relates to the Etruscans and situates them ancient Mediterranean world.

Phil Perkins

Professor of Archaeology

The Open University


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