Monday, October 7, 2019

Etruscan Hut Urns

Many people around the world have thought of tombs as houses for the dead. One of the most charming evocations of that idea is these funerary urns from Tuscany. During the Villanovan Culture of 900 to 700 BC, they mostly looks like these huts. The Etruscans burned their dead thoroughly, so these are not very big, mostly less than a foot (30 cm) tall.

Archaeology shows that at least some houses of that period and earlier were oval, like these urns.

I should say that not everyone thinks these represent houses; some think they are temples. But if so they represent a temple design that was ancient even in 800 BC, since by then Etruscan temples were larger, grander stone things.

Most are ceramic but a few are bronze. These were never very common in this period, and most funerary urns just looked like urns. But more than a hundred are known.

A famous specimen excavated at Castel Gandolfo in 1817, now in the Vatican Museum. The decoration has inspired much commentary; does this mean that Etruscan houses were decorated in this way, or was the decoration special to the urns?

Over time the shape of the urns changed. By 500 BC they were generally rectangular, as, apparently, Etruscan houses had become.

And in classical times they looked like these.

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