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The Etruscans

vasi etruschi

Our history starts… from Prehistory: a play on words that aims to show how the territory of the Terre di Siena, especially in its southernmost parts, was already permanently inhabited over 40,000 years ago. The area around Cetona, a splendid village at the foot of the mountain of the same name, has given us evident and important traces of these settlements. These include caves in which finds that can be classified between the Palaeolithic age and the late Bronze Age have come to the light. The prehistoric events of this territory began, therefore, with the Middle Palaeolithic age: Neanderthal man, in fact, inhabited some of these caves, leaving evident traces of his passage, such as tools made of split stone and the remains of the animals he hunted. The most intense population was recorded during the 2nd millennium BC, mainly in the Belverde area, near Cetona, where huts were built and burials carried out. All these finds can be seen at the “Museo Civico per la Preistoria del Monte Cetona” [Mount Cetona Civic Museum for Prehistory], located in the old town, while the “Archeodromo” [an educational archaeology centre] and the “Parco Archeologico Naturalistico” [Naturalistic Archaeology Park] stand on the east side of Mount Cetona. A Bronze Age village has also been reconstructed here, with full-size huts and craft areas. The Etruscans, however, really are part of our DNA, as proven by the fact that so many of the facial features portrayed on funerary urns and grave paintings are remarkably identical to those recognisable in so many of our own faces today. The memory of ancestors accompanies us also in our everyday lives, in our habits, in the activities of our farmers, in our typical food, in some of the words we use in our local dialect and in an infinity of local place names.

 

 The Graves

Discoveries are made practically every day, without interruption; thousands of graves have been identified and registered, but still have to be dug up. We would need a hundred museums to contain all the finds and just when you think there is nothing left to discover, another grave or another temple is unearthed, rich with fully intact sets of furnishings, statues, ornaments and jewellery of the rarest beauty. Naturally, the number of graves throughout the whole territory is practically infinite. If we talk about “ditch” graves, with no paintings but with extremely interesting funerary furnishings, in the area of Chianciano Terme alone, over 1,000 have been identified…
The Etruscans, however, left behind much more than the things that have been found during the discovery of graves.


  The Labyrinth

What is known as the “Labyrinth of Porsenna” was recovered under the ground in Chiusi. This is a system of tunnels, originally used for plumbing purposes, which now allows visitors to take an atmospheric journey into the bowels of the town, offering the possibility to cross it and descending to a considerable depth, surfacing, at last, inside the bell tower of the Cathedral. From the top of the tower there is a splendid view of the rooftops of the old town and of the whole valley.

 


 The Museums 


Following meticulous restoration, these finds have been given a worthy home in several museums in the area and they are presented in very modern displays, often respecting the original position at the time they were found, providing precise information on the social standing of the ancient owner or the practical use of tools and accessories. An international reference point, and therefore destination of scholars and enthusiasts from all over the world, is the “Museo Archeologico Nazionale” [National Archaeology Museum] of Chiusi, which houses the most important finds discovered during excavation campaigns carried out in the area since 1800 (). These excavations led to the discovery of painted graves of rare beauty (one that can be visited is the 

 

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