Peter O’Tombarolo?

I’m sure many readers of rogueclassicism were saddened to read of the death of Peter O’Toole this past weekend, especially considering how many ‘classical’ roles he played. Indeed, I was one of many folks on Twitter retweeting obits and the like … all of which makes the following somewhat disturbing/uncomfortable. The Guardian has a thing wherein Malcolm McDowell (of Caligula fame, natch) is reminiscing about his experiences with O’Toole on the set. Inter alia we read:

[...]
I do recall one particular night shoot… We were called to the set at four o’clock in the afternoon. As usual, nothing was ready. They’d built a set of Tiberius’s grotto, on three acres, and were assembling all of the extras and background. The producers worriedly asked if I would go into Peter’s trailer (he was playing Tiberius) and go through the lines with him, which we did few times.

And then he told me the most remarkable story – whether it is true or not I have no idea – about his grave-robbing Etruscan tombs. He said the best way to find Etruscan jewellery and artefacts was to find the drains in the tombs, and very gingerly sift through them with your fingers because, as the bodies decompose, all of the artifacts deposit themselves into the channels. The thought of Peter O’Toole on his hands and knees in an Etruscan catacomb makes for a lovely image. [...]

A lovely image? It gets a bit more sinister … Sian Philips’ Public Places: My Life in the Theater, with Peter O’Toole and Beyond, which is available at Google Books. Check this excerpt (from Chapter 20) out:

otoole1 copy

Is this something that Classicists were aware of? Should someone be looking into these Etruscan-associated activities?

Mysteries at the UPenn Museum

From Penn News:

A select group of local young authors is looking to unlock a mystery.

Following in the footsteps of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who penned Sherlock Holmes, or Agatha Christie, who wrote Murder on the Orient Express, a small group of up-and-coming mystery writers headed to the Penn Museum in April to research a historic whodunit: “The Mystery of the 26 Helmets.”

In the 6th Century B.C., Etruscan traders set out on a journey to transport 26 new solid cast bronze helmets manufactured in the City of Vulci (northwest of Rome). They were headed to the town of Negau, located in what’s now Slovenia, which is situated to the north and east of Italy.

They made it past the Alps. And they were never seen again.

The traders disappeared – and so did their 26 helmets.

That is, until the 1800s, when a German archaeologist was digging in a nearby forest. The archeological dig yielded the untouched 26 bronze cast helmets, carefully packed in a wooden chest and buried six feet under the forest floor.

What happened to the Etruscan traders? How could they just simply vanish? What would cause them to bury these 26 helmets so deep underground in the forest? Was foul play involved? Were shenanigans afoot?

The mystery writers-to-be are planning to answer those questions and more.

As a part of a new, 90-minute interactive educational program, seven fifth-grade students from the Henry C. Lea Elementary School were selected for this special activity. Their goal was to visit the artifacts in the Penn Museum’s Etruscan Gallery and strengthen their creative writing skills by tying in elements of mystery and historical fiction based on actual events.

These seven were chosen from among 30 students in two 5th grade classes at Lea.

According to their teacher, these students have really grown as writers.

“They were really excited about creative writing, but more importantly, they represent Lea’s shining stars,” says Lindsey Coyne, a fifth- grade teacher at Lea Elementary. “We’re so thankful that Penn has opened its doors to us,” she adds.. “We walked here, and we’re exposing them to all of this history and culture at the museum, just a few blocks away.”

Penn’s many activities involving the Lea School reflect President Amy Gutmann’s institutional priorities, including the University’s commitment to local engagement.

The students will weave historical facts throughout their mysteries, and what they learned at the Penn Museum will help them to generate ideas for their story settings, characters and plot developments.

Benjamin Ashcom, a docent for the Etruscan Gallery and Roman Gallery at the Museum, provided background information to the students about the Etruscans and their culture. He talked about how the Etruscans did not have an organized military, but if the city was threatened, all males would serve as soldiers to defend it. He told the students of the Etruscans’ resources, how they had access to the copper mines to make bronze armor, art and hardware and how the society had many factories to produce shoes, fabrics, gold, jewelry, pottery, ships, chariots and wagons.

Ashcom delved into how implements of war and their production and manufacturing were highly profitable – and how the Etruscans were an entrepreneurial bunch, selling their wares to the Greeks, Romans and even their sworn enemy, the Gauls.

Now the students are armed with a review of the facts, it’s up to them to “fill in the blanks” in this unique creative writing activity, which is a part of a mystery-writing unit, based on the common-core standards.

Ashcom provided printed background information, including photographs of artifacts, and regional maps to encourage the students to start thinking like historians –- or, at least, like historical fiction writers –- in order to recreate the story leading up to the disappearance of the Etruscan traders and their 26 helmets.

“Your imagination is the only thing that counts,” Ashcom told the class.

He distributed faux coins featuring the Greek goddess Athena, the goddess of wisdom, inspiration and the arts, so that students could have them nearby to stimulate creativity as they write their stories. And, he gave each student three passes for free admission to the Penn Museum, so they can share the source of their mysterious, historical, creative-writing adventure with their loved ones.

Ashcom says that he’s looking forward to reading each version of “The Mystery of the 26 Helmets,” which may be on display in the Penn Museum or at the Lea School.

The students plan to start writing their stories this week.

… and interesting assignment … the Wikipedia article on the Negau Helmet will give you some more background on the actual artifact(s) …

Etruscan ‘Pyramids’ Beneath Orvieto?

Tip o’ the pileus to Explorator reader Don Buck for pointing us to a version of this story, which really should be getting wider attention. Here’s the version from St Anselm College:

Classics professor David George and a group of Saint Anselm students and alumni discovered for the first time a series of pyramidal structures under the city of Orvieto, Italy.

For 20 years, George has led students to archaeological dig sites to uncover the mysteries of the past including trips to Greece and most recently Castel Viscardo and Orvieto, towns in the southwest edge of Umbria, Italy.

This year, George and co-driector, Claudio Bizzarri of the Parco Archeogico Ambientale dell’Orvietanoas, an expert in Orvieto archaeology, worked at a second site in addition to the first at Castel Viscardo. There they discovered pyramids dating to at least the 5th Century BCE carved into the plateau rock on which Orvieto stands.

The archaeologists and students uncovered a series of Etruscan tunnels, 5th century BCE Etruscan pottery, as well as material dating back to 1200 BCE. George believes the subterranean pyramids were likely tombs or part of a sanctuary. He says there are no parallels to this anywhere in Italy.

“We know its not a quarry or a cistern; the walls are too well dressed to be a quarry and there is no evidence of mud which would point to a cistern. That leaves just a couple of things, some sort of a religious structure or a tomb, both of which are without precedent here,” says George.

At the time of their discovery, the structures were filled, covered by a top floor that had been modified for modern use, most currently, a wine cellar. Upon noting some Etruscan construction techniques in the stone stairwell, Drs. George and Bizzarri obtained a permit to dig deeper.

Excavating Pyramids

Excavation of the site began on May 21 where the group dug through a mid 20th century floor reaching a medieval floor. Immediately beneath this subfloor, George and Bizzarri with their team excavated a layer of fill containing materials and artifacts ranging from the middle of the 5th century BCE to 1000 BCE.

The archaeologists believe they are currently at least 12 meters from the bottom, having already dug down 5 meters. The Etruscan stone steps continue to descend and the group discovered a caniculo leading into the second pyramid. The site will sit idle until May 2013, when Drs. George and Bizzarri return with their crews.

What’s Next
In May 2013, George will also resume his work at the original site in Coriglia, near Castel Viscardo for his eighth season. You can read about George and his crew at http://www.digumbria.com. Over the past seven seasons, they have uncovered evidence for occupation of the site dating from the 10th c. BCE all the way to the 16th c. CE (as well as random regalia from World War II). To date, the site’s strongest phases are Etruscan and Roman (Republican, Early Imperial, and Late Antique). This year they discovered an Etruscan foundation deposit dating to the 6th century BCE underneath one of the walls.

The original article has links to a flickr set of photos from the dig (including one which will, not doubt, have some group claiming the Egyptians were in Italy). There is also a link to this interview with Dr George by an Italian station taken inside the ‘pyramid':

Also worth a look is the news and video coverage from WMUR:

In Search of a Missing Helmet

Interesting story in the Oxford Mail:

AN OXFORD archaeologist is facing one of the greatest challenges of his career, tracking down a 2,500-year-old Greek helmet that has been lost for 30 years.

In the early 1980s, Mensun Bound took part in the excavation of a 2,500-year-old Etruscan vessel off the island of Giglio, Italy.

But of the many artefacts he brought to the surface, the Oxford University archaeologist always felt the ancient wreck was robbed of its crowning glory.

A bronze helmet, believed to be worth millions, had already been taken by a German diver when the vessel was discovered 20 years earlier. Mr Bound has spent decades hot on its trail, and has now been asked by the Italians to head an international appeal to finally track it down.

They hope to house it in a museum on Giglio alongside artefacts from the wreck.

He tracked it down in Germany in 1982 when he traced the diver by phoning everybody of the same name. Because of its high value it was being kept in a bank.

Mr Bound photographed it, made drawings and even wore it. But it was to be the last time he saw it.

The 59-year-old, a research fellow at St Peter’s College, said: “It is hoped the museum will one day become a permanent home for the helmet, which is the most spectacular item ever to have come from the island and one of the most important finds made in Italy.
Related links

More Oxford news

“I have seen all the Greek helmets in existence, and this is by far the most beautiful. It is even more important because it comes from a known archaeological site of the very early 6th century BC.

“Beaten from a single sheet of bronze and decorated with snakes and wild boars, there is nothing else like it in the world. It is a masterpiece of ancient art and technology that could not be duplicated by a modern craftsman.”

Eight years ago, Mr Bound, who lives in Horspath, was asked by dealers to authenticate a helmet in Switzerland. But it never went to auction. Before he could fly over, the helmet had been sold in a private sale.

Mr Bound suspects the helmet is now in a private collection. The initial challenge is to find the owner before negotiations with the Italian authorities may begin.

The mayor of Giglio, Sergio Ortelli, said: “I’d like to talk to whoever has the helmet, and in the spirit of friendship, and on behalf of the people of Giglio, to ask for it back.

“And also to invite whoever has it to a ceremony to mark the return of our island’s lost treasure.”

I’m not sure if the helmet in question is the one which graced the cover of the January 1990 edition of Minerva (I don’t have access to read the article, alas).

Capitoline She-Wolf: 12th Century

I’m kind of confused why this didn’t get picked up in more sources and am dismayed at the lack of

Lupa Capitolina: she-wolf with Romulus and Rem...

Lupa Capitolina: she-wolf with Romulus and Remus. Bronze, 12th century ADhttp://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7499469.stm, 5th century BC (the twins are a 15th-century addition). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

detail … the original comes from Corriere della Sera:

Più giovane di 17 secoli. La Lupa capitolina, statua simbolo di Roma, raffigurata mentre allatta i gemelli Romolo e Remo, è stata scolpita nel Medioevo. Cioè 1.700 anni più tardi di quanto di era ritenuto finora: la scultura dunque non è etrusca, non è stata realizzata nel V secolo avanti Cristo. ma tra l’XI e il XII dopo Cristo. DUE SECOLI DI DIBATTITO – Sono gli studi più recenti condotti sulla Lupa a chiudere la querelle sulla sua datazione, che anche di recente ha diviso restauratori e storici dell’arte. Ne hanno dato conto in una conferenza stampa il direttore dei Musei capitolini Claudio Parisi Presicce, dove la statua è conservata, il sovrintendente ai Beni culturali Umberto Broccoli e l’assessore alla Cultura del Campidoglio Dino Gasperini. «La tesi – ha spiegato quest’ultimo – è che sia la copia medievale di un originale etrusco». «Il dibattito scientifico dura da secoli, almeno da Winckelmann in poi – ha commentato Broccoli – e a mio parere una risposta definitiva non verrà mai, perché ci sarà sempre una forchetta di oscillazione temporale. Però certamente è stata fatta molta chiarezza in più». Il sovrintendente Umberto BroccoliIl sovrintendente Umberto Broccoli IL RUOLO DELLA SCIENZA – Per cambiare la data di nascita della Lupa, gli esami sono iniziati 1996, con l’avvio del restauro, e sono proseguiti tra il 2009 ed il 2011. La tecnica della spettrometria di massa con acceleratore ha permesso di estrarre e analizzare campioni organici adatti alla datazione con il radiocarbonio. In particolare sono stati esaminati numerosi campioni di resti vegetali dalle terre di fusione utilizzate per realizzare la statua. Da questi test sono emersi una serie di dati che hanno consentito, tramite una combinazione statistica, di spostare l’origine della Lupa al medioevo. L’università del Salento, che ha eseguito le analisi, ritiene che ] Più giovane di 17 secoli. La Lupa capitolina, statua simbolo di Roma, raffigurata mentre allatta i gemelli Romolo e Remo, è stata scolpita nel Medioevo. Cioè 1.700 anni più tardi di quanto di era ritenuto finora: la scultura dunque non è etrusca, non è stata realizzata nel V secolo avanti Cristo. ma tra l’XI e il XII dopo Cristo.

DUE SECOLI DI DIBATTITO – Sono gli studi più recenti condotti sulla Lupa a chiudere la querelle sulla sua datazione, che anche di recente ha diviso restauratori e storici dell’arte. Ne hanno dato conto in una conferenza stampa il direttore dei Musei capitolini Claudio Parisi Presicce, dove la statua è conservata, il sovrintendente ai Beni culturali Umberto Broccoli e l’assessore alla Cultura del Campidoglio Dino Gasperini. «La tesi – ha spiegato quest’ultimo – è che sia la copia medievale di un originale etrusco». «Il dibattito scientifico dura da secoli, almeno da Winckelmann in poi – ha commentato Broccoli – e a mio parere una risposta definitiva non verrà mai, perché ci sarà sempre una forchetta di oscillazione temporale. Però certamente è stata fatta molta chiarezza in più».

IL RUOLO DELLA SCIENZA – Per cambiare la data di nascita della Lupa, gli esami sono iniziati 1996, con l’avvio del restauro, e sono proseguiti tra il 2009 ed il 2011. La tecnica della spettrometria di massa con acceleratore ha permesso di estrarre e analizzare campioni organici adatti alla datazione con il radiocarbonio. In particolare sono stati esaminati numerosi campioni di resti vegetali dalle terre di fusione utilizzate per realizzare la statua. Da questi test sono emersi una serie di dati che hanno consentito, tramite una combinazione statistica, di spostare l’origine della Lupa al medioevo. L’università del Salento, che ha eseguito le analisi, ritiene che l’attribuzione all’XI-XII secolo sia attendibile al 95,4%.

The only English coverage so far, oddly enough, is in Gulf Times:

A study has shown that the Capitoline Wolf, a bronze statue representing Ancient Rome’s most famous symbol, was probably sculpted during the Middle Ages, some 17 centuries later than what has long been thought, media reports said yesterday.
Researchers at the University of Salento, who carried out radiocarbon and thermoluminescence tests, believe the statue dates from around the 12th century AD and not the 5th BC, daily Corriere della Sera said.
The statue, which is kept at Rome’s Capitoline Musuems, depicts a she-wolf suckling human twins.
The pair represent Romulus and Remus, brothers who, according to legend, founded Rome in 753 BC.
Most experts believe the twins were added in the late 15th century AD, probably by the sculptor Antonio Pollaiolo.
However, the she-wolf was thought to have been a much older work, possibly pillaged by conquering Roman soldiers and then used as a symbol of the founding myth of their city.
“(Now) the thesis is that it is medieval copy of an original Etruscan work,” Rome’s municipality supervisor for culture, Umberto Broccoli, said at a news conference.
Broccoli noted that 18th-century German art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann had first attributed – based on how the wolf’s fur was depicted – the statue to an Etruscan maker in the 5th century BC.
“The scientific debate has lasted for centuries, at least from Winckelmann onwards and it is my opinion that we will never have a definitive answer,” Broccoli said.
However, the latest study had brought “much more clarity”, Broccoli added.

This seems to be a followup to a little brouhaha that rearose back in November (see, e.g., in the Telegraph: Romulus and Remus symbol of Rome could be medieval replica) which I don’t think we got around to blogging about. Folks should read Dorothy King’s post from the time: The Capitoline Lupercalia … I think the objections remain. The Corriere della Sera piece mentions radiocarbon dating again, but they’ve done some statistical shifting (i.e. it doesn’t appear they’ve done new tests, but they’ve fudged the numbers … I can’t really find anything on this at the USalento site). The Gulf piece mentions thermoluminescence as well, but I’m not sure how that would apply in this situation. Whatever the case, we seem to be on the cusp of turning the Capitoline She Wolf into the Shroud of Turin of the Classics set …

Folks might also be interested in a couple of posts from 2006:

Artemis (?) from Montereggi

This one’s a bit more interesting than the one which follows, and has quite a bit more detail. It details recent finds at the Etruscan site at Montereggi/Limite sull’Arno (not sure what the actual town is called), including this:

via Nove da Firenze

… which is a roof detail dating to the mid-sixth century B.C. or thereabouts, possibly depicting Artemis, and which was found ‘ritually deposited’ in some sort of tank/cistern. Remains of a temple dating to the 4th/3rd century B.C. were also found.

Here’s most of it:

Il primo tra questi consiste nel rinvenimento, all’interno di una grande cisterna, già nota da tempo per appartenere ad una casa etrusca di notevoli dimensioni (oltre 400 metri quadrati) di una lastra in terracotta con la testa di una donna velata, realizzata in altorilievo. L’immagine femminile ha i capelli raccolti sulla fronte, e mostra due orecchini ed una collana nell’impostazione classica di queste terracotte architettoniche, secondo un modello noto già nel V secolo a. C..
Il pezzo rinvenuto a Montereggi, per la presenza di volute in foglia d’acanto, può essere datato ad epoca posteriore, ed in particolare attorno alla metà del VI secolo a. C.

Si tratta di un elemento quadrangolare da fissare sull’architrave o sugli elementi rampanti del tetto di un tempio: la lieve rotazione del volto verso sinistra, chiarisce che era stata fabbricata per essere posta in posizione frontale, nella parte destra, rispetto a chi guardava, dell’architrave.
La lastra figurata è stata rinvenuta sul fondo della cisterna, a 7,5 metri di profondità, ove evidentemente era stata depositata con cura.
“La lastra architettonica giaceva sul fondo della cisterna: collocata sopra un letto di ciottoli bianchi, che avevano probabilmente la funzione di filtrare l’acqua captata dalla struttura ed era protetta da alcune pietre. Si tratta, quindi, di una deposizione rituale, grazie alla quale essa si è conservata pressoché integra. Alla figura, che potrebbe anche celare un riferimento ad Artemide – la dea dalla quale avrebbero preso il nome gli Artemini, gli etruschi di Artimino, nel cui territorio (chora) stava Montereggi -, doveva perciò avere la funzione di proteggere l’acqua della cisterna. Non ho al momento riscontri precisi su questo documento, se non la sua evidente derivazione da modelli più antichi, e la sensazione di una possibile connessione con i prodotti artistici della Magna Grecia che, in quel periodo, diffondevano l’incipiente gusto ellenistico. La rarità morfologica ed il suo eccezionale stato di conservazione fanno di questa lastra architettonica un ritrovamento di inestimabile valore per il territorio di limitese e per le collezioni del Museo Archeologico di Montelupo”, afferma Fausto Berti, direttore del Sistema Museale di Montelupo.

Ma la campagna di scavo condotta dal Museo Archeologico di Montelupo, in collaborazione con l’Università di Siena, sul sito dell’antico abitato etrusco di Montereggi non ha riservato solo questa gradita sorpresa. Nel corso degli scavi sono state rinvenute infatti anche tracce consistenti di un edificio templare, ben segnalate dalle basi di colonna e dalle murature che lo caratterizzano, oltre all’ampio spazio aperto sul quale si colloca, riconoscibile come la piazza (l’agorà) posta nel punto più elevato dell’abitato.

“La costruzione è da riferire al periodo ellenistico poiché le sue fondazioni hanno restituito ceramiche di IV e III secolo a.C. E’ proprio la profondità della fossa entro la quale è stato costruito il muro perimetrale destro di questa struttura a segnalarci la sua probabile appartenenza ad un edificio di culto: l’ampiezza della fondazione, sconosciuta alle case private, serve infatti a contenere la spinta del grande tetto templare, caratterizzato da uno spiovente di circa dieci metri. Un ritrovamento simile ha meravigliato anche noi, anche se da tempo siamo consapevoli che l’abitato di Montereggi rappresenta un importante centro etrusco che, dall’apice della collina omonima si estendeva fino alla pianura, dove ora è la strada provinciale. Nel corso di un saggio effettuato nel 2008 proprio nei pressi di quella via di comunicazione sono infatti venute alla luce sotto circa 5 metri dall’attuale piano di campagna importanti accumuli di ceramica databili tra VI e V secolo avanti Cristo, tra i quali spicca una grande oinochoe in figulina ed una Kilyx in bucchero, ora esposti al Museo Archeologico di Montelupo”.

“La concreta collaborazione tra i comuni di Capraia e Limite e Montelupo Fiorentino – prosegue Berti – unitamente all’azione di sostegno della Soprintendenza Archeologica per la Toscana, esercitata dal funzionario competente per territorio, dottoressa Lorella Alderighi e dell’Università degli Studi di Siena, ha permesso di ottenere questi importanti risultati, che si concretano anche nelle nuove dimensioni che adesso caratterizzano il Parco Archeologico di Montereggi, inserito recentemente anche in un percorso ben segnalato e dotato di pannelli esplicativi. Lo scavo è sempre un’opera collettiva: esso necessita dell’ausilio di persone in grado di dirigerlo e realizzarlo in tutti i suoi aspetti per cogliere gli obbiettivi scientifici che gli sono propri. Senza mettere in campo un’organizzazione museale ben radicata sul territorio è poi impossibile cogliere le molteplici opportunità culturali e sociali che offre l’indagine archeologica ad una comunità locale attraverso la valorizzazione delle testimonianze (strutturali e non) rinvenute.
In questo caso ho la fortuna di poter contare non soltanto su giovani archeologi bravi ed appassionati, ma anche su veri e propri maestri dello scavo stratigrafico, quali il prof. Pino Fenu, e sugli esponenti della cooperativa Ichnos Lorenzo Cecchini e Andrea Violetti; Francesco Cini ha da parte sua consolidato e svuotato la cisterna, consentendo così il ritrovamento della lastra architettonica. Tutte le nostre operazioni, inoltre, sono state supportate dal Gruppo Archeologico di Montelupo, grazie all’opera indefessa di Luciano Bellucci, che, come sempre, non ha perso neppure un giorno di scavo. Tutta questa squadra, ormai ben sperimentata, lavora adesso a pieno ritmo, ed è sempre più decisa a dimostrare definitivamente ciò che ormai appare più che probabile: l’esser stato cioè l’attuale Limite sull’Arno l’erede di un abitato etrusco di notevoli dimensioni, dal quale ha tratto la sua inconfondibile tradizione, il suo rapporto con il fiume e con i boschi del Montalbano, in una parola il più antico porto fluviale ed il maggior centro della cantieristica interna dell’antichità toscana”.

Etruscan House from Grosseto: Followup

We’re getting a few more details on that Etruscan house find at Grosseto which we mentioned last week … here’s an excerpt from ANSA’s coverage:

Following an initial excavation of two weeks, the archaeological team revealed details of the earliest discoveries.

The building’s walls were made of blocks of dried clay, the first ever example of Etruscan-made brick, said Rafanelli. Clay plaster was also found, along with a door handle and the remains of bronze furniture. Of particular interest is the basement of the house. Built of drystone this was apparently used as a cellar for storing food supplies. A massive pitcher which stood in the corner of the main room was used to hold grain.

Other finds include the original flooring of the house, made of crushed earthenware plaster, along with remains of vases, amphorae and plates painted black.

A large quantity of metal nails in the house, along with their placements, indicates the main room might have once contained a kind of mezzanine level built from wooden beams. Six Roman and Etruscan coins discovered on a small alter inside the structure suggest it collapsed in 79 BC, during a period of war sparked by the Roman general Lucius Cornelius Sulla.

Experts believe the building, which was used both as a home and for commercial activity, belonged to a wealthy and influential family at the time of its collapse. The variety of styles discovered so far indicates it was extended and renovated several times during its three centuries of existence. “The building was part of the ancient town of Vetulonia and is much older than other sections of the town uncovered so far,” said Rafanelli. “We also want to work towards transforming this building into an open air museum,” she added, promising the excavations would continue.

via Etruscan home ‘unique discovery’ | ANSA.it.

Tarquinian Reggia from Gabii?

This one’s working its way through the Italian press … a sixth century (B.C.) edifice which includes an image associated with the Tarquins. Also of interest is evidence of ritual foundation sacrifice and the burial of five (non-sacrificed?) children under the foundations as well.  Il Messaggero seems to have the best coverage so far:

Gli archeologi la considerano una testimonianza unica e straordinaria. In tutta Italia ne esistono forse una decina di esempi. E’ stata riportata alla luce a Gabii, venti chilometri a sud di Roma la casa del rex della città antica. I muri delle stanze sono integri, un particolare quasi senza precedenti per l’epoca, e la dimora è composta da tre stanze non comunicanti tra loro che, con tutta probabilità erano affacciate su un grande portico e che erano gli ambienti della casa destinati al culto. I muri erano intonacati e dipinti. Sotto il pavimento in pietra sono state ritrovate intatte, le fosse di sacrifici rituali fatti per inaugurare il cantiere. In cinque di queste i corpi di altrettanti bimbi nati morti. «Non si tratta di sacrifici umani», precisano concordi il sovrintendente archeologo Angelo Bottini e il professor Marco Fabbri. Indizio però che si trattava di una casa molto importante.

Gli archeologi della sovrintendenza di Roma e quelli dell’università di Tor Vergata che insieme l’hanno riportata alla luce tra settembre e dicembre 2009 sono convinti che si tratti della casa dei Tarquini a Gabii, una reggia costruita nel sesto secolo a.C., forse su un edificio preesistente. Era una reggia sfarzosa con un tetto decorato da statue e da un fregio in terracotta riconducibile alla famiglia dei Tarquini.

L’ipotesi è che vi abitasse il figlio di Tarquinio il Superbo, Sesto Tarquinio. Ma forse la residenza era della famiglia già nei decenni precedenti. «Di certo -dichiarano Fabbri e Bottini – c’è che quella casa regale ad un certo punto venne distrutta o meglio, venne smontato il tetto monumentale e gli ambienti vennero seppelliti fino a lasciare solo un tumulo di pietre. Una fortuna. Perchè proprio quel seppellimento ha consentito alla reggia di arrivare praticamente intatta fino a noi».

Costato fino ad oggi 60mila euro lo scavo deve ora continuare. Si spera di trovare il tetto e gli altri ambienti della regia. «Cercheremo di stanziare altre risorse», dichiara il sottosegretario Francesco Giro. «La speranza – conclude Bottini – è che si possa continuare a scavare. E che proprio qui, nello scenario meraviglioso di Gabi, si possa allestire un grande parco archeologico».

We’ll see if this gets any coverage in the English press …

via Gabii, svelata la reggia dei Tarquini Archeologi: testimonianza unica in Italia | Il Messaggero.

Tuscans and Etruscans

Latest bit on the DNA front suggests there is no DNA link between the ancient Etruscans and their modern-day Tuscan counterparts. An excerpt from the ANSA coverage:

The current population of Tuscany is not descended from the Etruscans, the people that lived in the region during the Bronze Age, a new Italian study has shown.

Researchers at the universities of Florence, Ferrara, Pisa, Venice and Parma discovered the genealogical discontinuity by testing samples of mitochondrial DNA from remains of Etruscans and people who lived in the Middle Ages (between the 10th and 15th centuries) as well as from people living in the region today.

While there was a clear genetic link between Medieval Tuscans and the current population, the relationship between modern Tuscans and their Bronze Age ancestors could not be proven, the study showed.

”Some people have hypothesised that the most ancient DNA sequences, those from the Etruscan era, could contain errors or have been contaminated but tests conducted with new methods exclude this,” said David Caramelli of Florence University and Guido Barbujani of Ferrara University.

”The most simple explanation is that the structure of the Tuscan population underwent important demographic changes in the first millennium before Christ,” they said.

”Immigration and forced migration have diluted the Etruscan genetic inheritance so much as to make it difficult to recognise”.

The scientific data does not necessarily mean that the Etruscans died out, the researchers said.

Etruscan Necropolis from Foggia

A brief item from AdnKronos:

An ancient Etruscan cemetery has been uncovered by Italian tax police or Guardia di Finanza in the country’s south during a police investigation to stop tomb robbers. The cemetery or necropolis is believed to date back to the Etruscan civilisation that existed in central and southern Italy from 1,200 BC to 550 BC before the Roman era.

The necropolis was found in the province of Foggia, located in the southern region of Puglia.

Police intervention is believed to have prevented the sacking of the 500-square-metre necropolis, in particular five tombs that contained the remains of warriors, buried with precious funerary artefacts dating back to the fourth century before Christ.

During the operation, two people were reported to the authorities.

The illegal trafficking of antique artefacts is highly lucrative in Italy.

The tomb robbers or ‘tombaroli’ steal the items from ancient graves and other historic sites and later sell them on the international black market.

I’d like to think we’ll hear more of this, but the brevity of even the Italian coverage suggests otherwise, alas.