Italian authorities announced the extraordinary discovery of 2,000-year-old bronze statues in an ancient Tuscan thermal spring on Tuesday, stating that the find will "rewrite history" regarding the transition from the Etruscan to Roman empires.
The discovery, made in the sacred baths of the San Casciano Dei Bagni archaeological dig near Siena, is one of the most important ever made in the Mediterranean and certainly the most significant since the 1972 underwater discovery of the renowned Riace bronze warriors, according to Massimo Osanna, the director of museums for the Italian Ministry of Culture.
Due to the protection provided by the mud, the two-dozen bronze figurines and other objects were discovered in pristine condition, complete with facial details, inscriptions, and rippled tunics. The figures were accompanied by 5,000 gold, silver, and bronze coins, according to the ministry.
As evidence of the significance of the discovery, the ministry announced plans to build a new museum in the region to house the artifacts.
The University for Foreigners in Siena's excavation coordinator, Jacopo Tabolli, deemed the discovery significant because it sheds new light on the end of the Etruscan civilization and the expansion of the Roman Empire in what is now central Italy between the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C.
Despite the wars and conflicts that plagued what are now the regions of Tuscany, Umbria, and Lazio, the bronze statues indicate that Etruscan and Roman families prayed together in the sacred sanctuary of the thermal springs. The inscriptions on the statues, which include depictions of Apollo and Igea, the ancient Greek god and goddess of health, are written in both Etruscan and Latin.
"While social and civil wars were being fought outside the sanctuary, the elite Etruscan and Roman families prayed together in a context of peace," Tabolli explained. This is an exceptional opportunity to rewrite the relationship and dialectic between the Etruscans and Romans.
Some of the two dozen bronzes are human-like figures of deities, while others depict body parts and organs that would have been offered to the gods as votive offerings for medical cures via the thermal waters, according to a statement from the ministry.
"This is almost an X-ray of the human interior, from the lungs to the intestines," Osanna said, pointing to a lung in the restoration laboratory where the bronzes are being treated. "There are hands and other anatomical components such as ears. Therefore, all of these things that curative waters and divine intervention would have been able to save."
According to the ministry, the discovery represents the largest cache of bronzes from this period in Italy, which is notable given that the majority of the period's surviving artifacts are predominantly made of terracotta.
"This discovery will alter the course of history," Tabolli said in a statement.
The discovery comes fifty years after a recreational diver discovered the bronze warriors of Riace in the waters off southern Calabria, which went on to become one of Italy's most spectacular archaeological discoveries. The bronzes from the 5th century are on display at the national archaeological museum in Reggio Calabria. They depict two naked, life-sized Greek warriors with rippled muscles and intricate, curly beards.
The discovery of bronzes rewrites the Etruscan-Roman history of Italy (2022, November 8) 8 November 2022, retrieved from https://phys.org/news/2022-11-discovery-bronzes-rewrites-italy-etruscan-roman.html.
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