Italian police recover Etruscan treasures

Thu Jun 27, 2013 10:06am EDT
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By Cristiano Corvino

ROME (Reuters) - Italian police have recovered a hoard of ancient Etruscan funerary urns and other treasures including bronze weapons which were originally found during building works and trafficked illegally.

Described by officials as one of the most important recoveries of Etruscan art ever, the haul included 23 funerary urns from a tomb complex in the area of modern Perugia belonging to an already-identified aristocratic family called the Cacni.

"It's an extraordinary find," said Luigi Malnati, director general of antiquities at Italy's culture ministry. "It's of incredible historical importance in its own right and it helps reconstruct the context for these objects," he said.

The Etruscans, a mysterious people from central Italy who were eventually assimilated into the Roman empire, left few written documents and most of what is known of them comes from their rich funeral art.

Most of the collection recovered by police dates from the so-called Hellenistic period between the third and second centuries BC when Etruscan civilization was in decline and families like the Cacni were already under the sway of Rome.

"They were certainly one of the princely families of the period and represented part of the Etruscan aristocracy that formed alliances with Rome and formed one of the most important links between Rome and the rest of ancient Italy," Malnati said.

The marble urns are decorated with images of fighting centaurs and battles, with some depicting scenes from the ancient myth of Iphigenia, daughter of the Greek king Agamemnon who was condemned to be sacrificed.

In addition, the find includes statues, some originally covered in gold as well as bronze weapons, ceramic pots and a rare bronze kottabos, an implement used in ancient drinking games.   Continued...

A journalist points at a funerary marble urn, decorated with an image of Alexander the Great during a battle, after it was recovered from a tomb complex in Perugia, in Rome June 27, 2013. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi