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Study of artifacts enables a better understanding of Etruscan mortuary practices
Adorned by jewellery, the deceased was surrounded by forty ceramic recipients. (skyphoi, jug, oenochoai...). All these painted ceramics are Etrurian productions and date to the 4th century BC. The archeologists also unhearthed perfume vases, small black-varnished goblets, two bronze mirrors, an askos and goblets.

PARIS.- In recent months, Inrap has conducted extensive excavations in Corsica, one of which led to the major discovery of a Roman and Etruscan necropolis at Aleria. This preventive archaeological excavation uncovered an exceptional Etruscan tomb from the end of the 4th century BC. This very rich tomb contained many prestige items. More than two hundred artifacts have been recorded. Today, the continuing study of these artifacts in the laboratory has resulted in surprising discoveries.

In the center of the Etruscan tomb
In the center of the tomb in a hypogeum, the deceased person was positioned on their back with the head tilted to the left and the arms extended along the body. It was decorated with a pair of gold earrings, and two rings in gold and copper alloy on the fingers.

The individual was surrounded by forty ceramic recipients. Near its head, the archaeologists found, on the left, two large skyphoi – a sort of goblet with large handles – and, on the right, a small jug (aryballos-shaped lekythos). Along the right leg, there was another skyphos and three oenochoai (wine jugs) decorated with female faces. All these painted ceramics are Etrurian productions and date to the 4th century BC. Two perfume vases (alabastrons) lay on the feet of the individual and, to their left, small black-varnished goblets, two bronze mirrors and an askos (vase with a lateral spout) with a black head were deposited in a pile. Finally, a dozen goblets of different shapes and sizes was aligned along the side of the woman. The study of these exceptional artifacts, which were carefully preserved by the specialists, will enable a better understanding of Etruscan mortuary practices.

Laboratory excavation and CT scanning
After the excavation, collection, cleaning and stabilization of the artifacts, the archaeologists began to study them in what is called the “post-excavation” phase of their research.

The discovery of this exceptional tomb and the state of preservation of its artifacts have led to exceptional measures and studies in order to facilitate the excavation of the ceramics and the sediments contained within them, as well as to avoid any surprises and to preserve the elements that were invisible when the vases were removed from the tomb.

Twenty-two ceramics, including the oenochoai and the skyphoi, were analyzed through CT scanning. This type of non-intrusive X-ray scanning reveals the various elements and materials that compose a dense concentration and produces a virtual image of them in three dimensions.

New discoveries
The first results of these analyses have revealed some surprises: one of the large skyphoi contains a small cup, and a small skyphos contains an object that is difficult to identify. One of the cups piled near the feet of the body has a small bronze ring, which is the fifth one found in this tomb. This ring is the last remaining element of a container made from a perishable material, fabric or basketry, for example, which disappeared long ago. Finally, an alabaster contains a metal rod, perhaps a perfume or ointment stick.

The research will soon focus on two exceptional bronze mirrors with a bone handle. These heavily damaged objects could reveal a bathing or goddess scene.

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April 23, 2020

Study of artifacts enables a better understanding of Etruscan mortuary practices

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