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Bill Thayer

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Vetulonia: a small village surrounded by Etruscan tombs

A town in southern Tuscany, a frazione of Castiglione della Pescaia: 43°22.3N, 12°14E. Altitude: 280 m.

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Two slightly overlapping views of the remains of what is currently felt to be the arx — the Latin word means "citadel" — in this small village, once a powerful Etruscan town. The Romans themselves thought that Rome owed to Vetulonia its ceremonial symbols of power (the fasces, the curule chair and the toga praetexta).

[image ALT: a small rectangular space defined by low stone walls; in the center, a stone pillar about one and a half meters high]

[ 1 page, 3 photos ]

Vetulonia continues to be excavated — so much so, in fact, that it's just about impossible to visit: green metal fences and locked gates everywhere. In January 1997 I did, however, get to see this Etruscan tomb about 500 m N of town: named by archaeologists the Tomba della Fibula d'Oro, because they found a gold fibula in it.

[image ALT: A stylized representation of a metal hand-mirror, taken from the binding of a book. It is an Etruscan mirror motif representing that book, George Dennis's 'Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria'.]

The serious student with an interest in the Etruscans will not want to miss the chapter of George Dennis's Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria. It's a fairly detailed account of what we would call today a salvage excavation, of a large Etruscan settlement. The account is also of particular interest to students of historical archaeology, since the site in question, by modern lights, is not Vetulonia at all, rather a necropolis SW of Magliano in Toscana! You'll therefore have to read carefully, untangling information about Vetulonia from information about that site.

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Page updated: 29 Oct 17