The Etruscan Necropolis: Cerveteri and Tarquinia


Death had a great significance for the Etruscans. After having carefully deposited the deceased and his/her dearest properties in the tomb they made it inaccessible and even invisible from the outside.
The idea was to help the survivor to forget the dead and on the contrary to remind the dead of his earthly life.Tombs in Cerveteri
The graves were carved in the volcanic rock, the oldest ones covered with a mound of earth that hid their presence. Inside they imitated the appearance of the real houses, therefore the excavations of their necropolis (cities of the deads) has been a great help on understanding more about the habits, desires, fears, and the lifestyle of a people about whom all written records have unfortunately gone lost. Most of the art treasure of this mysterious people, preserved now in museums all over the world, come from their cemeteries.


An Etruscan TombIn the Necropolis of Cerveteri the interior of the tombs varies greatly depending on the tastes and financial possibilities of the owner. From the simplest of just one room with stone carved beds, to the most complex formed by two or more rooms with ceilings sculptured like the beams of the houses. In some tombs the decoration reproduces fine details of real buildings: doors with sculpted frames, windows, furniture and furnishings, all perfectly carved into the rock, as well as male and female tools of everyday life, all contributes to make the appearance of the house of a deceased something alive and vibrant.
Access to the tombs was usually a long staircase and / or corridor, carved into the stone (dromos).
In the late centuries the graves were very similar to each other having a squared shape in a “condominium” style.


At Tarquinia most of the burials belong to a more restricted period of time and therefore the style of the tombs is more homogeneous. The decorations are not carved, but painted on the walls and reproduce those of the houses. Ceilings are painted with leaves, branches, birds or ornamental patterns. Lions, leopards and other animals are facing each other.

On the side walls, are depicted scenes of everyday life, above all: banquets, scenes of hunting and fishing.

Tarquinia's frescoes

Servants who pour the wine and bring food to the deceased and his guests. Musicians who play and graceful dancers dressed with colorful clothing.
From those paintings leaks out the Etruscan idea to find in the afterlife a situation almost identical to that just left. In the last centuries of their civilization, due to the arrival of the Greeks and their vision of death, and to the decline of the Etruscan world, burial paintings began to show a fear of death, and with this various kind of monsters, bluish -eating humans, demons and snakes.

One Response

  1. Brian Pavlac June 3 2013

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