A. Sutherland - AncientPages.com - Many secrets of the ancient Etruscans who represent one of the most enigmatic civilizations in Europe are still to be discovered.
Etruscan cemeteries contain different types of burial practices dated from the 9th to the 1st century BC and bear witness to the achievements of Etruscan culture, which over nine centuries developed the earliest urban civilization in the northern Mediterranean.
The Inghirami tomb at Volterra. Image source: www.romansociety.org
Some of the tombs are monumental, cut in the rock, and decorated by impressive tumuli (burial mounds) and carvings. In contrast, others have wall paintings that successfully survived until now. However, many Etruscans tombs have been looted over the centuries.
Among those still preserved is the Inghirami Tomb, which belonged to the Atia family and is one of the most impressive tombs from the Etruscans' Ulimeto necropolis.
It contained fifty-three urns dating from the first half of the second to the middle of the first century.
The 'Inghirami Tomb' is considered one of the best-known late Etruscan tomb complexes. Two Inghirami brothers discovered it, who visited the Ulimeto necropolis just outside Volterra, Italy, in 1861.
Etruscan City Of Volterra
Volterra, in an ancient fortress city with Etruscan roots, medieval architecture, surrounded by a ring of defensive walls. Closed within mighty ancient walls and situated on a hill 545 meters high above sea level, Volterra is far from the sea and the urban settlements. Over the centuries, it was the city's most favorable strategic position.
However, although the city was closed within its walls, it was repeatedly captured but managed to maintain some independence until the Romans finally conquered it.
Thanks to rich history and culture, Volterra was able to preserve several monuments, including the 'Inghirami Tomb' accidentally found by the two young brothers outside the wall circle of Volterra, where they went to spend their holiday.
Beneath a grassy mound, the boys discovered a subterranean structure - a tomb constructed of a circular chamber roughly hewn in the bedrock, without any decorations, and enclosed by a false dome supported by a central pillar. There is also an entrance passage leading to the chamber, cut into the tufa rock.
Inside the tomb's chamber, there are fifty-three spectacular, beautiful cinerary alabaster urns and round central pillars supporting the ceiling, all made from local alabaster stone. When discovered, the tomb chamber was filled up with some sixty chests, from five-six generations, placed in two rows on the bench and front of the central pillar.
The structure represents a characteristic Volterran tomb dated to the 4th-1st century BC, and this kind of urns was traditionally used for holding a person's ashes after cremation. This funeral tradition was popular among both classical and prehistoric cultures.
Relief decorations and the reclining lid figures representing the deceased create an illusion of a banquet hall. However, these sculptural decorations were not intended to be public manifestations.
The Inghirami Tomb gives us a rare opportunity to admire something from the distant past since almost all the Etruscan tombs have been robbed in antiquity. Interestingly, the Etruscan urns lack Latin inscriptions typically found on the ones dated to Roman times.
Today, the urns that belonged to an Etruscan Volterranian family Ati (Atia), are kept in Florence, Italy, and so is the tomb that has been reconstructed in the garden of the National Archaeological Museum of Florence.
Written by – A. Sutherland - AncientPages.com Senior Staff Writer
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Expand for references
MacIntosh Turfa J, The Etruscan World
National Archaeological Museum of Florence
Haynes Sybille, Etruscan Civilization: A Cultural History
Banti, Etruscan Cities and Their Culture