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Discovery.com

"Etruscan Pompeii" Comes to Light
April 3rd, 2002

By Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News

The largest Etruscan settlement ever found is coming to light in a Tuscan plain near Massa Marittima, according to Italian archaeologists digging in the area. 
Laying at the foot of the Colline Metallifere (the Metal Hills) near Lake Accesa, the Etruscan town dates from the end of 7th and the beginning of 6th century B.C. and could shed new light on one of Europe's most mysterious lost people. 
"It is the Pompeii of the Etruscans. It is a miner's town, still intact on a 30-hectare (75-acre) area with quarters, streets, and tombs," Giovannangelo Camporeale of Florence University told Discovery News.

 


Foundation of the town
(click on the image to enlarge)

Scattered throughout an empire of states on the Italian peninsula, the Etruscans forged Italy's most sophisticated civilization before the Romans. Defeated by the Romans in the 4th century B.C., they disappeared, leaving little trace. Only the richly decorated tombs they left behind provide a glimpse into their world.

 

Camporeale, who has been excavating the area for 22 years, has uncovered five quarters of the town so far. They are laid out on a formal, rectangular plan, with houses built on streets that intersect at right angles. 
The Archaeological Museum of Massa Marittima has opened four of the quarters to the public. 
Houses had stone foundations, while the walls, made of sun-dried bricks now disappeared, held the wooden supports of the roofs, covered with red terracotta tiles identical to the ones still used in Tuscany. 
The unnamed town mined iron, copper, silver and tin and was subject to the nearby powerful town of Vetulonia. 
"Vetulonia was the Milan of those times. It controlled the mines around Massa Marittima and had a thriving maritime trade. It exported metal ores to Greece and in exchange received ceramics and other artifacts," said Camporeale. 
The town that is emerging near Lake Accesa could yield more clues. 
"For centuries archaeologists have only excavated Etruscan tombs. Now we have the chance to understand more about their daily life," said Camporeale. 

The houses revealed fragments of inscriptions and several tools mainly related to spinning work which indicate much female activity in the town. In the Etruscan society, women enjoyed an important role: tomb paintings portray them freely and seductively, banqueting alongside the men in a way that would have shocked the misogynist Roman mind. 


Found in a tomb
(click on the image to enlarge)

The researchers have pieced together life in the city, which revolved around the mines. Each quarter contained about 10 houses and controlled one mine. The mine's managers and their families lived in the houses, while the slaves who worked in the mines lived in huts. There was also the industrial quarter, just 30 meters (18.5 miles) away from the lake. 
Then something happened. For some mysterious reason, the city was suddenly abandoned. The inhabitants even took the costly roof tiles with them, probably planning to build new houses in another area. 
"It is indeed a very interesting excavation of an archaic city, and I am planning to visit it this summer. It really provides a precious insight into the Etruscan world," New York University's Larissa Bonfante, an authority on the Etruscan civilization, told discovery.com.  

 

 

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