Who‘s not dreamed of being Indiana Jones or Lara Croft, at least once in their lives? To discover some hidden treasure or undiscovered tomb you may need to be an archaeologist, but for fun, pretending to be Indiana Jones or Lara Croft for a day, there is no better place than the Etruscan necropolis of Cerveteri, known as La Banditaccia.
La Banditaccia is a real and true city of the dead, with alleys, streets, squares and neighborhoods, where the tombs are covered with tuffaceous mounds that look like huts. The city was "inhabited" from the 9th century BC until the 3rd BC, showing the evolution of burials over the centuries. The area open to the public extends for about 10 hectares, with around 400 burial mounds, but the entire necropolis stretches over 400 hectares.
Besides being the largest ancient necropolis in the Mediterranean, what makes Cerveteri so fascinating are its underground tombs that go down steep staircases, surrounded by narrow tuff walls. It's really exciting to go down in the dark. Today, many of the most beautiful tombs are illuminated internally but it must have been really exciting to discover these intriguing passages.
Many of the tombs are similar, but some are literally incredible, such as the Tomb of the Reliefs, dating back to the 4th century BC. This tomb is very different from all the others, it is mysteriously covered with stucco reliefs, hence it’s name. The reliefs depict tools and anything that can serve a living person. It makes you wonder how come this tomb is so different from the others and what was the purpose of all these tools. It could be the tomb of someone important, perhaps a king. Giving a more daring interpretation, since the Etruscans reproduced a village for the dead, probably following the model of their own villages; maybe they had a communal room where they kept all their utensils. The Etruscans are without a doubt a fascinating population and an aura of mystery surrounds them.
No one knows for sure where they came from, various places in the Mediterranean basin have been pointed out as possible lands of origin, but what I find incredibly fascinating is that their alphabet is identical to the Celtic runes, yet on paintings, statues and sarcophagi, the Etruscans have almond eyes and very curly hair, suggesting Mediterranean origins. A very advanced population for their time, they taught the Romans engineering techniques, especially hydraulic, and it seems that they also invented the arch. Still, nothing built by them has survived to our days other than the structures excavated in the tuff rock.
It would be wonderful to find out more about this intriguing population, that lived in the shadow of Rome and that few know about. Most certainly without them, Rome would not have been the same...