Skip to comments.Fabled Etruscan Kingdom Emerging?
Posted on 04/22/2004 6:18:57 PM PDT by blam
Fabled Etruscan Kingdom Emerging?
By Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News
April 21, 2004 The fabled kingdom of the Etruscan king Lars Porsena is coming to light in the Tuscan hills near Florence, according to an Italian University professor.
Known as Chamars, where the lucumo (king) Porsena reigned in the 6th century B.C., this was the leading city-state of the Etruscan civilization that dominated much of Italy before the emergence of Rome.
It was from there that Porsena is said to have launched his most successful attack upon Rome in order to restore the exiled Tarquinius Superbus to the throne. Porsena laid siege to the city, but accepted a peace settlement and withdrew.
If confirmed, the discovery could help shed new light on one of Europe's most mysterious people. It would also raise the possibility of locating the fabulous tomb of the Etruscan king.
Porsena's tomb was said by the historian Pliny the Elder to consist of a labyrinth 300 feet square with pyramids on top. According to legend, it was adorned with a golden carriage, 12 golden horses, a golden hen and 5,000 golden chicks.
"Apart from legend, I believe Chamars has at last been found. This was the biggest Italian city before Rome and it represents the entire Etruscan civilization from the very beginning to its decadence," Giuseppe Centauro, a professor of urban restoration at Florence University who has also worked on restoration projects in Pompeii, told Discovery News.
Living in a loose confederation of towns scattered from the Po River in the north to Campania in the south, the Etruscans forged Italy's most sophisticated civilization before the Romans.
They rose from Italian prehistory around 900 B.C. and dominated most of the country for about five centuries. In 90 B.C., after centuries of decline, they became Roman citizens.
No literature remains to record their culture. Few traces of their puzzling, non-Indo-European language survive. Only the richly decorated tombs they left behind provide a glimpse into their world.
Centauro believes Chamars is set between Prato's Calvana mountains and Florence's Mount Morello, in a remote countryside which was once used by Sardinian crime gangs to hide the victims of their kidnappings.
Important Findings Indeed, the large area has already yielded important findings.
Two century ago, workers building a house unearthed the most precious find that the area has produced so far, a bronze statuette of a young man dating from about 500-480 B.C., which is now at the British Museum.
More recently, workmen excavating foundations for a goods yard came across the remains of what archaeologists, announcing the discovery last week, called "one of the most complete Etruscan cities to be discovered in Tuscany."
Dating from the 5th century B.C., the settlement was built on the banks of the Bisenzio river, just outside what Centauro claims to have been Chamars' defensive walls.
"The city was certainly abandoned. One hypothesis is that it was flooded by the river Bisenzio," Gabriella Poggesi, the archaeology in charge of the excavation, told Discovery News.
Drawing a line between the discovery of the city near the Bisenzio river and the possibility of finding Chamars, Poggesi did not want to comment on Centauro's hypothesis.
Centauro and a team of experts have been detailing all of the finds in the area around the newly discovered city. He believes the settlement so far found is merely one of several within the walls of Chamars.
His team has already discovered that stone walls encircle an area of seven square miles. Within this area, there are various tombs, extensive house foundations, and a sophisticated water system of canals and artificial basins.
In one stretch, defensive walls 10 feet thick emerge from the vegetation for 700 yards.
"The walls look well preserved. We can hope to find more evidence of habitation sites, so rare in places that have later been continuously inhabited," Larissa Bonfante, professor of classics at New York University and an authority on the Etruscan civilization, told Discovery News.
She added that the newly excavated settlement would provide important information about an obscure period of ancient history.
"This is certainly an important discovery, quite aside from the possible identification of Chamars. The area surely owed its success to its location on the River Bisenzio and the route northward to the rich Po Valley and beyond. It can tell us a great deal about patterns of settlement and fortification," Bonfante said.
Where is Chamars? In an area near the eastern flanks of the city walls is a rural area known as Chiuso, which Centauro believes is Clusium, a settlement within Chamars that was attacked and besieged by the Roman general Silla in 89 B.C.
If Centauro is correct, this could bear out Pliny's clue that it could mean the tomb of Lars Porsena could finally be discovered.
Pliny the Elder wrote that Porsena's body was buried "sub urbe Clusio" (under the city of Clusium) with hanging chains and bells "which played when the wind moved them."
Regional officials have so far denied any requests to excavate the area, mainly occupied by privately owned estates.
"Our role is to preserve, first of all," Angelo Bottini, Tuscany's superintendent of archaeology, told Discovery News.
"Personally, I do not believe in Centauro's hypothesis. But archaeology is not an exact science and we are open to proposals. For example, we will have no problem in authorizing an American University lead by respected researchers to excavate that area," Bottini said.
Many experts dispute that the ruins discovered by Centauro are those of Chamars, believing that the ancient city was instead located in what is now Chiusi, southwest of Florence. Centauro insists they are wrong.
"Chamars and Clusium have often been mistaken with modern Chiusi because of the similarities in the names," he said. "That's why until now nobody has found it."
I look forward to your posted articles, blam.
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