Cerveteri Etruscan Necropolis

Cerveteri, Italy

Cerveteri town famous for the site of the ancient Etruscan city which was one of the most important Etruscan cities with an area more than 15 times larger than today's town. It was one of the city-states of the Etruscan League and at its height, around 600 BC, its population was perhaps around 25,000 - 40,000 people.

The most famous attraction of Cerveteri is the Necropoli della Banditaccia, which has been declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site together with the necropolis in Tarquinia. It covers an area of 400 hectares, of which 10 hectares can be visited, encompassing a total of ca. 1,000 tombs often housed in characteristic mounds. It is the largest ancient necropolis in the Mediterranean area.

The tombs date from the 9th century BC (Villanovan culture) to the later Etruscan period (3rd century BC). The earliest tombs are in the shape of a pit, in which the ashes of the dead were housed; also simple potholes are present.

From the later Etruscan period are two types of tombs: tumulus-type tombs and the so-called 'dice', the latter being simple square tombs built in long rows along roads within the necropolis.

The tumuli are circular structures built in tuff, and the interiors, carved from the living rock, house a reconstruction of the house of the dead, including a corridor (dromos), a central hall, and several rooms. Modern knowledge of Etruscan daily life is largely dependent on the numerous decorative details and finds from such tombs. One of the most famous tombs is the Tomb of the Reliefs, identified from an inscription as belonging to the Matuna family and provided with an exceptional series of frescoes, bas-reliefs and sculptures portraying a large series of contemporary life tools.

The most recent tombs date from the 3rd century BC. Some of them are marked by external cippi, which are cylindrical for men, and in the shape of a small house for women.

A large number of finds excavated at Cerveteri are in the National Etruscan Museum, Rome, with others in the Vatican Museums and many other museums around the world. Others, mainly pottery, are in the Archaeological Museum at Cerveteri itself.

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