Ancient Etruscan statues illuminate the history of pre-Roman Italy

A hoard of bronze statues that archaeologists say could rewrite the history of Italy’s transition to the Roman Empire have been discovered at an ancient thermal spring in Tuscany.

Italy’s culture ministry announced Tuesday that the exceptionally well-preserved Etruscan figures were found in San Casciano die Bagni, in the Tuscany region, about 100 miles north of Rome.

The more than 20 bronze statues dating back more than 2,000 years are hailed as one of the most important archaeological finds in the area.

The bronze statues are over 2,000 years old, most in excellent condition. (Italian Ministry of Culture / via AFP)

“What has re-emerged from the mud at San Casciano dei Bagni is a unique opportunity to rewrite the history of ancient art and with it the history of the passage between the Etruscans and the Romans in Tuscany,” Jacopo Tabolli, who led the excavation. he said in a statement announcing the finding.

The figures represent gods, including Apollo and Hygieia, in anatomical detail, suggesting that the site was of great importance to the ancient Etruscans. The statues were offered to holy water, the ministry said.

Excavation at the site began in 2019. The newly discovered statues were found in October. Around 5,000 gold, silver and copper coins were also discovered at the same time.

The find is believed to be the most important for antiquities since the discovery of the Riace warriors, rare full-size Greek bronze statues found in southern Italy in 1972.

“It is the most important discovery of the Bronze Riachs and certainly one of the most important bronzes ever found in the history of the ancient Mediterranean,” said Massimo Osanna, director general of museums at the Ministry of Culture.

The Etruscans were one of the many peoples who inhabited the Italian peninsula before the rule of the Latin-speaking Romans. The statues date from the 2nd century BC. and the first century AD, a time when the Etruscans were being assimilated into Roman society, after centuries of prolonged territorial warfare.

Image: ITALY-CULTURE-ARCHAEOLOGY (Italian Ministry of Culture / via AFP)

Image: ITALY-CULTURE-ARCHAEOLOGY (Italian Ministry of Culture / via AFP)

Finds are extremely rare, as most statues from the period are made of terracotta and not so well preserved. The ministry said in a statement that the hot springs also preserved inscriptions that would normally have worn away, showing the names of important Etruscan families, such as Velimna of Perugia and Marcni of the Siena countryside.

More than 60 experts from around the world were already analyzing the findings, according to the ministry’s press release.

The experts came not only from the field of archaeology, but also from various disciplines, including geology. archaeobotany, the study of ancient plants. epigraphy, the study of inscriptions, and numismatics, the study of ancient coins.

The bronze statues will be housed in a new museum in a 16th-century building in San Casciano, with local leaders hoping for a major boost to tourism in the area.

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