Ancient Etruscan statues shed light on the history of pre-Roman Italy

Ancient Etruscan statues shed light on the history of pre-Roman Italy

A treasure trove of bronze statues has been discovered in an ancient Tuscan thermal spring, which archaeologists say could rewrite the history of Italy’s transition to the Roman Empire.

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

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

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

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

“What has emerged from the mud of 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 Romans in Tuscany,” says Jacopo Tabolli, who created the headed the excavation. said in a statement announcing the find.

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

Excavations at the site began in 2019. The newly discovered statues were found in October. At the same time, about 5,000 gold, silver and bronze coins were uncovered.

The find is thought to be the most important for antiquity 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 since the Riace bronzes 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 several peoples who inhabited the Italian peninsula before the dominance of the Latin-speaking Romans. The statues date from the 2nd century BC. and the 1st century AD, a period when the Etruscans were assimilated into Roman society after centuries of territorial wars.

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

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

The finds are exceptionally rare as most statues from this period are made of terracotta and are not nearly as well preserved. The ministry said in a statement that the hot spring water has also received inscriptions that would normally be worn showing the names of important Etruscan families such as the Velimna of Perugia and the Marcni of the Sienese countryside.

According to the ministry’s press release, more than 60 experts from around the world have already analyzed the results.

The specialists came not only from the field of archaeology, but from several 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 to significantly boost tourism in the area.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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