Saturday Art: Necropolis at Tarquinia

Tomb decoration in Tarquinian Necropolis
Procession from tomb decorations in Tarquinian Necropolis

Near the ancient city of Tarquinia a burial site of the Etruscans has been discovered, containing tombs that feature rich decoration.   The field is covered with raised hills that denote tombs beneath, the tombs now being explored and preserved.  Artworks inside feature scenes of life and of the funerals of the deceased,.

Twenty white-colored tomb entrances are clearly visible within the pasture-like necropolis plateau. Fifteen tombs are open for viewing. All date from 520 to 125 BCE. Each of the empty chambers is sealed behind glass to maintain a constant environment. Despite the controlled conditions, many of the frescoes adoring the walls and ceiling are badly deteriorated.

In general, Etruscan frescoes feature 2-dimensional figures painted using iron oxide, lapis lazuli dust and charcoal. Scenes depict a variety of themes inspired by the daily life of the wealthy class: banquets, dancers and musicians, athletes or gladiators, funeral processions, hunting and fishing. Of particular significance are banqueting scenes where both men and women recline during the meal. These suggest an enjoyment of life bordering on hedonism.

The Etruscans were a culture before Rome was the capitol, and after Rome rose, it absorbed the ancient sites.  They are only now returning to the heritage the Italian countryside inherited, and are a source of pride to those who were for a long time a subordinate culture.

Italian guides pointed out  that demons did not appear until the 14th century, and implied that they were significant of a less distinguished culture brought by the Greeks, because these creatures were not so lovely as the Etruscans themselves.  As I found out often, the later interlopers were considered a lesser element, and the classic older one much preferred.

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