Etrusker | Chimeras, alabaster and bucchero ceramics

The encounter with this high culture is therefore worthwhile. Especially because the journey to the “Rasenna” is at the same time a journey through all the lands of Tuscany.


Necropolises and artifacts in the relevant museums thus become the travel guide of a unique journey through time, whose stops are manifold. We have selected a few as examples, be- cause certain highlights should not be missed:

These include the famous “Chimera of Arezzo”, definitely one of the highlights of Etruscan art and metal casting. It dates from the end of the 5th/ beginning of the 4th century BC and was prob- ably dedicated to Tinia, the Etruscan god of light and heaven. On November 15, 1553 it was found during construction works for Medicean fortresses near Arezzo and directly confiscated by Cosimo I de’ Medici for his collections. Cosimo I had obviously realized offhand that it must be an extraordinary piece. for the detailed elaboration of the chimera alone, the chiseled hair of the mane, the muscles testify to the highest art.

The Etruscans were not only masters in metal casting and sculpture. The potters were also in no way inferior to their colleagues, as can be seen, for example, in Chiusi in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, where one of the most beautiful collections of “Bucchero ceramics” can be found. To produce these ceramics, the master potters throttled the oxygen supply during the firing process. This extracted oxygen from the iron oxide in the clay, turning the body black and shiny. The result was pottery that looked like a metal vessel. Masters of this technique were able to produce vessels whose walls were about 2 mm thick and were probably used for ritual rather than everyday purposes.

A preserved “glirarium” is also unique. This is a clay pot with air holes for dormice. Inside these jars it was relatively dark, for the animals a signal for hibernation, whereupon they became fat. Well fattened, they were taken out of the fattening jars and turned into delicious roasts with or without stuffifing. As a delicate part of the menu, they were highly sought after not only by the Etruscans, but also by the Romans.

Volterra should not be missed, because the city of Volterra has its roots far back in Etruscan times, moreover it belonged to the “Twelve Cities League” of Etruria. The “Evening Shadow” or “Ombra della sera” in the Museo Etrusco Guarnacci is one of the main works of Etruscan art. The delicate, filigree-looking statuette was made of a copper-tin alloy, the copper being extracted from the nearby Colline Metallifere, a mountainous region known for its ores and where mining was carried out from ancient times to the present day. Also, worth seeing is touching double portrait of a couple on a couch. They are depicted so vividly that it would not be surprising if they got up and left the room.

The only Etruscan city with a sea port was Populonia on the Gulf of Baratti. From this strategically excellently located place, the Etruscans conducted flourishing trade with partners all around the Mediterranean. The city was also the largest center for iron processing in the Mediterranean, because here the ore coming from the nearby island of Elba was smelted, processed and sold. In the Archaeological Park you can get closer to ancient Populonia through workshops, blast furnaces and various necropolises. Worth seeing are the Necropoli delle Grotte with its cave tombs, carved in layers in the rock, and many other relics of this amazing, highly developed people.


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