Say that three times fast!
Today was unbelievable! We met at 8h15, met up with our chartered bus shortly thereafter and drove northwest to Ceveteri, a small town known for a vast Etruscan necropolis just beyond its borders. The UNESCO World Heritage site of the Necropoli Etrsuca della Banditaccia covers an area of 400ha (hectares are dumb; if this doesn’t mean anything to you either, we’re talking 1000 acres/1.5 square miles) of which 10ha are open to the public and I swear, I jumped, scrambled, hiked and tripped over most of them.
We arrived at around 9h30 and ran around the site for almost four hours. The tumuli tombs are the mound-shaped burial chambers half carved into the living rock, sometimes aided by carved blocks. The rock, a volcanic stone called tufa*, is very porous and malleable, making it an excellent architectural material. After reconvening to discuss our readings and the different arguments concerning the interior decoration of these funeral spaces and the factors which contributed to the changes in ornamentation and design over the centuries (changes in the economic, social, or religious status of these ancient communities are all viable theories), namely from unpainted tumuli to the highly decorated “apartment style” tombs which truncated the long, dark entrance (dromos) to little more than a threshold, and added symbolic furniture in addition to the inset funerary beds.
From Ceveteri, we drove to Tarquinia and had lunch as a group at a little Trattoria overlooking the sea. It was amazing. I wasn’t thrilled with the lamb, but the roasted potatoes and local pecorino cheese, served with honey and apricot/orange marmalade was unbelievable. From the restaurant, we headed to the Etruscan Museum which featured further developments in the symbolic and ornamental decorative campaigns.
We moved onto the Etruscan necropolis at Tarquinia which, much like the town, is perched atop a cliff-like hill overlooking the sea on the west and the campagna to the east. We hung around for an hour and a half or so before finishing our discussion and heading back. Here, there are 19 tombs open the public, all of which are preserved subterranean chambers (aka down 20-something rickety stairs, behind glass and in light-controlled conditions). Most of these scenes represent elements of the Dionysian afterlife: banquets, dolphins jumping into the sea, scenes of athletic competitions and ancient pornography. Uh huh. Ohhhh academia…
Needless to say, we were out all day, didn’t get home until after 19h15 and although it was an amazing experience, I’m exhausted and am looking forward to a nice, quiet day in the classroom tomorrow.
* This makes an excellent board game vocabulary word, just be prepared to defend it!
Ancient Etruscan tumulus tombs at Ceveteri, beneath a 400 year old Oak tree