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Bill Thayer

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The Pivoting Stone Door

[image ALT: zzz]

This small Etruscan chamber tomb is 14.5 km NW of Perugia; twice that distance by road and trail. It stands somewhat below the crest of a hill densely forested in oak and beech — faggeto is Italian for "beech forest" — and remained undisturbed until 1919 or 1920. Considering how remote, isolated and difficult it is to find, this should be no surprise; this view (imagine it half buried in leaves) will make its late discovery even more understandable.

In some ways, the tomb at Faggeto is of a pretty standard type: it's a vaulted chamber built into the flank of the hill with a corridor between two low walls leading up to it.

The tomb has an outstanding feature, though, that I haven't yet seen anywhere else, and which is fairly rare (this by way of not saying 'unique', although I don't know of another): the half-ton sandstone slab that forms the door to the chamber is a monolith ingeniously cut with upper and lower pivots that allow it to swing open and shut with an easy push of the hand — after all these years.

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The upper pivot, with my ubiquitous 14‑centimeter-long blue pen for scale.

In this view, the door is about half-shut; here are additional close-ups of the same pivot from the inside with the door fully open, and of the top of the door.

Inside the Tomb

The exiguous interior will not hold two standing people — nor, of course, was it meant to. The stone bench you see held a travertine urn with the ashes of the deceased, almost certainly of the standard type, like these in the Museo Archeologico in Perugia, and what is described as "a few grave goods". All are said to be in that same museum but didn't seem to be on public display there in 2004: finding them in the storerooms would take more than the cursory inquiries I made at the time.

[image ALT: zzz. It is a view of the façade of the church of S. Maria in Viepri, Umbria (central Italy).]

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Looking up: the tomb is roofed with a simple barrel vault.

The type of construction and the materials used have led scholars to date the tomb to the 2c B.C.

[image ALT: zzz. Umbria (central Italy).]

[image ALT: zzz. Umbria (central Italy).]
Parting views from above: the monolithic door, and the corridor from the top of the tomb.

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Page updated: 15 Nov 07