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.
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.