Ancient Etruscan Statues Illuminate Pre-Roman Italy’s History

A treasure trove of bronze statues that archaeologists believe could rewrite the story of Italy’s transition to the Roman Empire have been discovered in an ancient Tuscan hot spring.

The Italian Culture Ministry announced on Tuesday that the remarkably well-preserved Etruscan figures had been discovered in San Casciano die Bagni, in the Tuscany region, about 160 km north of Rome.

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

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

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

“What has risen from the mud in 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 the Romans in Tuscany,” said Jacopo Tabolli, who conducted the excavations. said in a statement announcing the discovery.

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

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

The discovery is considered the most significant for antiquities since the discovery of the Riace warriors, rare life-size bronze Greek statues found in southern Italy in 1972.

“It is the most important find since the Riace bronzes and certainly one of the most significant 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 many peoples to inhabit the Italian peninsula before the rule of the Latin-speaking Romans. The statues date from the second century BC and first century AD, a time when the Etruscans were assimilated into Roman society, after centuries of protracted territorial wars.

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

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

Finds are exceptionally rare as most statues from the period are terracotta and not as well preserved. The ministry said in a statement that the thermal waters also preserved inscriptions that would normally have disappeared, indicating the names of important Etruscan families, such as the Velimna of Perugia and the Marcni of the Sienese countryside.

More than 60 experts from around the world were already analyzing the results, according to the ministry’s press release.

The specialists came not only from the field of archaeology, but also 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 for a significant boost to tourism in the area.

This article originally appeared on NBCNews.com

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