Hi incurable travellers,
after seeing the Ara della Regina, we went to visit the Tarquinia necropolis (the ancient Etruscan Tarchuna), which was declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2004.
Tarquinia necropolis is located on the Monterozzi hill, in front of the Civita plateau, where is located the temple of the Ara della Regina, that I was mentioning yesterday. If you are interested in reading it, check: Etruscan temple.
The contrast between the kingdom of the living (temple of the Ara della Regina) and the kingdom of the dead (Tarquinia necropolis) is always present in the history of Etruscans because for them death was not a negative experience, but rather marked the passage from earthly life to the world of deities. The burial paintings of Tarquinia necropolis, indeed, make us perceive how the Etruscans had a conception of death as a journey towards an imagined afterlife as a continuation of earthly life.
The deceased is often represented in banquet scenes, games, dances, agons and surrounded by the servitude, richly dressed men and women. The structure of the burial room also resembles that of earthly dwellings.
In Tarquinia necropolis there are about 6,000 tombs, with chambers excavated in the rock, and about 200 of them have finely painted rooms with frescoes from the 7th to the 2nd century BC, that is for the entire life of the city.
To access Tarquinia tombs, being them excavated underground, you have to climb down a ladder a bit steep. At the entrance of the burial chambers there are shatterproof glasses to protect the precious frescoes by vandalism.
All the tombs are lit with a timed switch located near the glass door.
Not all the 200 tombs are open to the public, indeed, just a dozen are accessible. Among them, those I liked the most are:
Tarquinia necropolis – Leopards’ tomb
It was built in 473 BC and takes its name from the representation of two leopards just in front of the tomb entrance. On the wall, there is also a funeral banquet in honour of the deceased. On the left, you can admire some dancers and musicians. It is among the most famous necropolis tombs for the vividness of its rich polychromy.
Tarquinia necropolis – Bacchants’ tomb
This tomb was built around the 6th century BC but it was discovered in 1874. On the entrance, there is a dance scene drew on the wall, connected to the Dionysian cults according to some scholars. From here comes the name of the tomb. The setting is naturalistic and the people represented dance and play holding cups of wine in their hands.
Tarquinia necropolis – The tomb of the Charuns
On the bottom and right sides of the vestibule, aligned with the underneath entrance to the funeral rooms, two false doors are carved – symbolic entrance to the afterlife – and painted with the indication of the wooden frame and metal studs.
The doors are framed by couples of winged Charuns, the Etruscan death demons keepers of the Hades.
Next to each figure, a painted inscription indicates the name of the demon Charun, accompanied by a different name that evidently distinguished the particular function he had in the Etruscan world.
Discovered in 1960, this tomb dates back to the first half of the III century BC and the style of the paintings make us understand how the Etruscans had assimilated the experience of Greek painting of the first Hellenism.
After the visit, we headed to the National Archaeological Museum of Tarquinia, but I will tell you about this in this article National Archaeological Museum of Tarquinia while, if you lost the first chapter of the story, I suggest that you check: Etruscan temple
Article translated from Italian by Chiara Casagrande