On a recent visit to some of the main stops in Etruria, mostly concentrated in what is now western Tuscany and part of Umbria and Lazio, I visited some fantastic necropolis sites, painted tombs, and museums of Etruscan art in Chiusi, Orvieto, Tarquinia, and Cerveteri.
The Etruscan civilization occured from the 7th to the 3rd century B.C., until they were eventually overcome by the Romans and died out. Much of their history has been studied by researching their tombs and the objects found in them, some of which have been surprisingly well-preserved and others that have been restored with modern techniques. The objects found inside the tombs have given scholars clues to their mysterious culture and what they were like as a civilization, which was greatly influenced by the Greek art and culture.
The Etruscans were fine metal smiths, using mostly copper, bronze, and some gold. However, gold was scarce and even then mostly adorned by the wealthy and were special gifts given to the dead for their presumed life in the afterworld. Precision in detail and lightweight gold, sheet sometimes less than 0.1 mm thick is commonly found. Their expertise is seen in the use of minute granulation and filigree techniques. General history of Etruscan jewelry can be read about here.
The personal decorative elements almost always found inside the urns are characterized according to age and sex of the deceased person. Of the most frequent feminine parure, more complex and articulated in the tombs of younger females, there are pairs of arched fibule (pins) and spiral hair clips. More rare is the presence of rings, chains, and small buttons in bronze. Sometimes there are beads made of glass, vitreous paste (pasta vitrea) and amber, and very rarely, bracelets. Masculine parure are more simple and usually consist of a serpentine fibula form with a disc-shaped staff or a big pin that can accommodate rings, chains, and buttons. It has been proven that the majority of the tombs discovered with these jewelry and other objects were in the 22-40 year old age bracket. It is also noted that much of the jewelry found in the tombs was not actually worn by the deceased person, but were given as burial gifts placed in their tombs.
Museo Archeologico Nazionale Tarquiniense
Open Tuesday through Sunday: 8:30 am until 30 minutes before sunset
Tickets: €6, €8 including nearby necropolis visit
Museo Archeologico Statale di Orvieto
Open daily: 8:30 am – 17:30 pm
Tickets: €3, €5 including nearby necropolis visit
Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Chiusi
Open daily: 9:00 am – 8:00 pm
Tickets: €4 includes nearby necropolis visit