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Italian archaeologists open 2,600-year-old tomb for first time, find wealthy family's treasures

Community leaders and archeologists in central Italy recently gathered in the municipality of Montalto di Castro for the opening of a tomb that dates back more than 2 1/2 millennia, the municipality announced in a social media post last week.

"Today ... we witnessed the opening of an ancient Etruscan tomb buried at the Osteria Necropolis in Vulci," the municipality of Montalto di Castro, which sits along the Mediterranean Sea about 100 miles northwest of Rome, wrote Oct. 27 on Facebook, calling the grand unveiling "a day of culture and history" in a translated statement.

Historians say the Etruscans built their civilization on a portion of the land that is now modern-day Italy, beginning as early as 900 B.C., and operated as a network of city-states not completely unlike the Roman Republic that came after it. The Etruscans dominated Italy until falling, as a result of the Roman-Etruscan wars, to the then-expanding Roman empire around the 4th century B.C.

Archeologists and local officials attend the opening of a 2,600-year-old tomb full of ancient treasures at the Vulci archeological site in central Italy on Oct. 27, 2023. Municipality of Montalto di Castro / Facebook

Vulci, an archaeological site in the northern Lazio region not far from Montalto di Castro, was once a rich Etruscan city. Its ruins have become a popular spot for tourist visits and as well as a place of interest for archaeological excavations.

The tomb discovered there earlier this year was found remarkably intact when it was officially opened at the end of October, for the first time in about 2,600 years, according to the Italian online magazine Finestre sull'Arte, which focuses on ancient and contemporary art. It was opened and explored following the opening of a similar tomb in the area this past April, the magazine reported. Montalto di Castro Mayor Emanuela Socciarelli attended the opening along with Simona Baldassarre, the councilor of culture for the Lazio region, Simona Carosi, the manager of the Superintendency of Archaeology for the province of Viterbo and southern Etruria, and Carlos Casi, the director of the Vulci Foundation, which helped lead the excavation alongside archeologists. 

Archaeologists found a collection of long-lost treasures inside the ancient tomb, including a collection of pottery and amphorae, which are tall jars with two handles and a narrow neck typically associated with ancient Greek or Roman cultures. The jars contained wine from Greece, likely from the island of Chios, Finestre sull'Arte reported. It could be a relic of the wine trade happening at that time in history. 

A trove of ceramics and amphorae, traditional vases associated with ancient Greece and Rome, were found inside the centuries-old tomb. Some were filled with wine believed to be from the Greek island of Chios. Municipality of Montalto di Castro / Facebook

Utensils, cups, iron objects, and a variety of ceramics and decorative accessories were also found inside the tomb in perfect condition, as was a tablecloth that may have been used for a funerary ritual offering called "the last meal" or "meal of the dead." A bronze cauldron was also found.

The stockpile of personal belongings found inside the tomb suggests the family for whom it was constructed was probably quite wealthy in their day. 

The complex structure and layout of the burial site is also important to archeologists and historians, Casi told the Italian news outlet Il Messaggero, noting that the tomb "appears to be characterized by a partition saved in the rock which creates a passage arch between the dromos, i.e. the short corridor with steps, and the vestibule, from which the two rooms were accessed, the front one and the one on the left: the usual one on the right is missing, evidently because the space had already been occupied by other tombs."

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