The Etruscan Mystery
Corresponding to an area over Tuscany, Western Umbria, and Northern Lazio the Etruscan people – referred to by the Romans as Tusci or Etrusci – pre-dated the Roman civilization for hundreds of years until the Roman Republic overtook their culture in 4th Century BC during the Roman-Etruscan Wars.
Much of its culture was lost or destroyed over the centuries and some of the few remaining artefacts that remain are preserved in various museums around the Lazio/Tuscany regions, Tuscany being derived from the Roman name Tusci and being the heart of the Etruscan civilization.
Despite its loss, there are a few pockets of history left and accessible to both intrepid explorers and the general public alike, one being the Etruscan tombs situated just a short drive outside of Viterbo.
Valley of Tombs
Carved out of the rock side of the stunning landscape these empty tombs stand testament to time and the ingenuity of the Etruscan people. Having had to have hollowed out the rock armed only with crude implements and perseverance this gargantuan necropolis, albeit over-grown and partially inaccessible now, are still awe-inspiring and thought-provoking as they tower over their viewer as protectors of the dead.
The bodies within have long since been removed or destroyed along with any treasures that accompanied them to the afterlife, but ledges, wall pockets to hold candles or fragrant gifts, as well as a few sarcophagi still hold fort amongst foliage growth and nature’s intruders. Even the decorative engraving surrounding the entrance is still visible. It truly is an astonishing site to behold, and what’s more – it’s free!
Intrepid Explorers Beware!
However, a word of warning to those who fancy themselves the next Indiana Jones: To view these tombs does include some minor climbing, and although you don’t exactly need your grappling hooks and rope you will need sturdy footwear. The area is accessible but overgrown and nature has not been overly empathetic towards human history.
Although many of the tombs are open many have also caved in or have been obscured by dangerous boulders which lie ominously overhead in wait to crush an unsuspecting visitor. Nature’s sentinels stand guard before the tombs, slowly reclaiming the land.
If ancient history is your bag then I highly recommend visiting these tombs. It is both interesting and humbling to stand before these resting places which were created by people just like us over 3000 years ago in the very spot where they were intended to be and where they still are.
The Etruscan Tombs in the valley (circa 2016). Photo by Steph.
Featured image; Etruscan Amphitheatre in Sutri (circa 2017). Photo by Steph.