The Etruscan Necropolis at Cerveteri covers an area of 400 hectares, only ten of which can be visited by the public. More than a thousand mound or tumulus tombs can be found in this area, dating to a period ranging nearly 600 years, from the 9th century BC to the late Etruscan period, the 3rd century BC. The oldest usually take the form of pits where cremated remains were placed, but there were also inhumation burials here. Bodies lay in repose on "couches" in later tombs, so burial practices evolved over time. The two types of tombs primarily seen at this site are the mound tombs, and "dice" tombs, which consist of square chambers in long rows, like those seen here, almost appearing as housing units. The mounds are comprised of a tufa base capped by soil, usually with natural growth on top. The interior is typically carved from living rock, intended to emulate the houses of the living, complete with a corridor (dromos), central hall and various rooms. As the Etruscan language is only partially understood, much of our knowledge of daily life comes from these tombs. The most recent date to the 3rd century BC, and are marked by external cippi stones. It is thought that cylindrical marking stones, some of them inscribed with family names, represent males and the small house figures represent women, but since numerous family members are found in the structures over many generations, this conclusion is often disputed. Many of the material remains are found in the National Etruscan Museum in Rome, the Vatican Museums and in other collections around the world. Cerveteri is now a UNESCO World Heritage site; although much remains undiscovered, it is one of the most important centers and a fountainhead for our understanding of pre-Roman Italy.
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