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An Etruscan Necropolis

Archival Documents from the Sorbo Excavations

Among the many excavations which produced documentation conserved within the Museum, the surveys conducted by the archaeological Superintendency between 1911 and 1912 in the Sorbo necropolis, located within the vicinity of the modern town of Cerveteri, deserve special attention. The necropolis provides evidence of occupation within what would become one of the great metropoleis of ancient Italy, the Etruscan city of Cisra. 
The Archaeologist Raniero Mengarelli
The investigations were conducted by the Director of Excavations for Civitavecchia and Tolfa, Raniero Mengarelli, a major figure in Italian archaeology who documented the excavation through photography and fieldnotes.

Raniero Mengarelli (1865-1943). Photographic archive, ETRU National Etruscan Museum

Raniero Mengarelli (1865-1943). Photographic archive, ETRU National Etruscan Museum

Sorbo necropolis, “well-shaped” pozzetto tombs cut into the tuff. Photographic archive, ETRU National Etruscan Museum

Sorbo necropolis, “well-shaped” pozzetto tombs cut into the tuff. Photographic archive, ETRU National Etruscan Museum

Images of the Excavation
In this archival photograph, we can see the excavators busily bringing to light a group of tombs. On the basis of the archaeological data produced, we know that the necropolis was used from the end of the final Bronze Age (10th c. BCE) through the Iron Age (9th-8th c. BCE). The dominant method for disposing of the dead was cremation, a characteristic rite of the Villanovans which was rarely practiced by other contemporary peoples, such as the Latins. 

Mengarelli notebook, 13 February 1911. Document archive, ETRU National Etruscan Museum

The Excavation Notebook
At that time, excavations were documented through daily entries in field notebooks. These included object descriptions accompanied by exceptionally accurate sketches made to scale.

Cerveteri, Necropoli del Sorbo, Tomb 2. Second half of the 9th c. BCE. Photographic archive, ETRU National Etruscan Museum

A Pozzetto in the Tuff
On 13 February 1911, a “well-shaped” pozzetto tomb cut into the tuff was brought to light within Tomb 2. Deposited within the pozzetto was a container made of tuff, inside of which was preserved a biconical cinerary urn capped by a lid in the shape of a helmet. This was decorated with strips of metal (identifiable due to the residual traces of their application) and featured a finial designed to imitate the roof of a hut. The urn contained the burnt remains of a man who died around the age of 30-40, as recent anthropological analyses have demonstrated. Also deposited within the urn was a small brooch (fibula) of the enlarged bow-shaped type, while a bronze pick with bone handle was placed within the tuff container.

In the Museum
One of the most interesting contexts discovered in this burial ground, dating to the second half of the 9th c. BCE, is on display in room 9.

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