Archive | July, 2011

Updated virtual reconstruction of the Regolini-Galassi tomb

20 Jul

Here is an updated visualisation of the antechamber of the RG tomb, in which we have implemented the most recent conclusions.  Not all important objects do have a place yet, for example the wooden situla with silver decoration could be hanging in the window, but we want to do some research first before implementing this.

tombe with dummies 180711_1

3D visualisation of the RG tomb (Daniel Pletinckx)

We have put the statues of the mourners around the bed and around the cinerary urn. But maybe we should not place them between the bed and the urn, as these mourners would turn their back on the urn.  This could be a possible explanation why all drawings only show mourners on the left side of the bed (see detail of the plan of the tomb below).  Does anybody has more information on the placing of Etruscan mourner images ?

tombe with dummies 180711_5

3D visualisation of the antechamber of the RG tomb (Daniel Pletinckx)

Tomba R-G da Canina_detail

Detail of the map of the RG tomb by Canina (1846)

We need to place more objects in the left niche next to the urn such as the biga, two iron fire-dogs, … But we still wander what the rectangular structures in this niche are (see detail of the plan by Grifi below)

tomb with dummies 180711_8

3D visualisation of the left niche with the cinerary urn of the prince (Daniel Pletinckx)

Regolini-Galassi da Grifi 1836_detail_left_niche

Detail of the plan of the RG tomb by Grifi (1836)

We’re still working on the visualisation of the cella.  Will come soon.

This blog is part of the Etruscanning project, that is been funded with support from the European Commission. This blog reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

The smell of eternity

19 Jul

When browsing through the list of objects in the Regolini-Galassi tomb, many objects seem to be related to incense burning. In recent years however, the understanding of Etruscan funeral rites has improved a lot through study and archaeological research. In this blog entry, we try to look into the possible interpretations of the incense related objects in the RG tomb.

When we have a look at Etruscan incense burners, we see that these objects (also called thymiaterion) only appear from the 6th century BC and consist of a small bowl (max. 15 cm) on a pedestal.  None of the objects in the RG tomb are similar to these typical incense burners.  On the other hand, the larger tripods from the RG tomb  have a support for a heating source but also do carry additional holders that could be used for incense burning (see image below).

detail_tripod

Detail of (a reconstruction of) an iron tripod from the RG tomb (photo: René van Beek)

The second object in the RG tomb that many authors link to incense burning is the bronze holmos.  When we analyse the different Etruscan objects that are described as holmos, we see an evolution (see image below) from a very practial kitchen tool, 25 cm high, that supports and heats vessels through burning charcoal in the lower part, to a more  elaborated stand (over 1 m high)  that still looks like having the same function, but with one or two spherical parts added between the foot and the support.  These spheres allow the smoke and sparks to settle.  The “handles” between the spheres provide additional strength and handling capability when turning the holmos upside down to remove the ashes after use.

Etruscan holmoi

Evolution of Etruscan holmoi (all objects are dated 7th century BC)

However, many holmoi that we have today come from graves, where they probably had a symbolic function and were not designed to be operational.  Especially the bronze holmos that has been found in the RG tomb (see a similar example from Praeneste below) looks like being purely symbolic, but still referring to food preparation to my opinion.  In any case, it could serve as a stand to carry some bowl or vessel (as shown below).  Pareti expressed doubts that the holmos of the RG tomb could support a lebes (as they are quite heavy as they are cauldrons for real use), but we consider it as possible that it could carry the smallest 6-headed lebes.

holmos_lebeti_Praeneste

Bronze holmos with lebes from the Praeneste necropolis

One of the decisions that we need to make in this virtual reconstruction of the RG tomb, is the place of the three lebetes and the bronze holmos.  The most logical solution is to put the two identical 5-headed lebetes in the cella and to put the smaller 6-headed lebes on the holmos in the antechamber.  As described before, in the early drawings a 5-headed lebes is missing and the holmos is always depicted empty.  So what is the solution ?

As there are many elements that make us believe that the two persons that found their last resting place in this tomb are man and woman. As the lebetes are real bronze cauldrons, used for cooking, they could come from the same household, so it is conceivable that one 5-headed lebes was put in the cella as a funeral gift for the woman, and an identical 5-headed lebes was also given to the man as a funeral gift. As the lebes was too heavy for the funeral holmos to be put on top, it was put in the storage room (the left niche).

In other words, we should see the lebetes purely as objects linked to cooking (hence playing a role in the funeral banquet and given to the deceased as a utility for the afterlife). The incense reported by Mrs. Hamilton Gray (Tour to the sepulchres of Etruria in 1839, pg. 25) can be present in the small recipients of the iron tripods (see above).

The same holds for the empty tripods in the antechamber.  These tripods  were used during the funeral banquet (hence empty) or were just symbolic as a utilitarian object for the afterlife.

The next object is a bronze cart.  All drawings of the RG tomb show, next to the bronze bed, this peculiar object, described as incense burner on wheels.  But was this cart really used for incense burning?

virtual reconstruction RG tomb

Virtual reconstruction of the antechamber of the RG tomb (D. Pletinckx) with bronze cart on the right

This cart consists of a large bronze “table” of 104 by 30 cm on wheels, bordered with stylised plants,  a bronze bowl of 27 cm wide and an overarching bronze support with a round centrepiece on which a vessel could be put (see images below).

incense_burner

Side view of the incense burner on wheels from the RG tomb (Canina 1846)

incense_burner_top_view

Top view of the incense burner on wheels from the RG tomb (Canina 1846)

A very similar cart has been found in Vetulonia, but is described by Randall-MacIver as a food-cart or porta-vivande.  The only functional difference with the RG cart is that there are two vessel supports above the bowl instead of one. To our opinion, the bronze RG cart makes much more sense as food cart than as incense burner, as the bowl could be filled by charcoal, a vessel could be put on top of the overarching support to be heated or kept warm and food or objects can be placed on the table surface.  Probably both carts are not sturdy enough to be used in real life and are kind of symbolic copies of real life objects.

food_cart

Bronze "food cart", Vetulonia, around 700 BC

A somewhat similar cart was found in Bisenzio, which again consists of a support for a vessel, with a holder for a heating source (one side of the cart has no decoration to provide access to put the heating source).  Again, this device seems more appropriate for serving and heating food than burning incense.

bronze cart from Olmo Bello necropolis

Bronze cart, Olmo Bello necropolis (Bisenzio), around 750 BC (Villa Giulia, Rome)

More and more authors are convinced that the bronze bed, that we have in the antechamber, is an empty bed and that the remains of the deceased are the cremation rests in the large cinerary urn in the right hand side chamber.  It is conceivable that the absence of incense burners is simply linked to the fact that there was no decaying body and no need to mask the odor, hence that all objects such as the tripods, the holmos and the bronze cart have to be interpreted as objects linked to a funeral banquet.

The point that we want to make here is that in this Regolini-Galassi tomb, we find very few objects that directly can be indentified as incense burners.  In the cella, we probably have two bronze cauldrons (lebetes) on tripods, which carry additional small recipients that could be used for incense burning.  The cauldrons on tripods rather have to be associated with a funeral banquet, the tripods carry a bowl under the cauldron in which a flame can be burning to heat the cauldron. Incense was reported to be present in one of the vessels, possibly in the small recipients of these tripods.  In the antechamber, we have empty tripods, again with a support for a heating device, a bronze holmos, two bronze cauldrons and a food cart. All are food related objects but no incense burners.  In our opinion, nearly all objects in both the cella and the antechamber need to be interpreted as objects that were used (or at least symbolised use) in a funeral banquet.

This blog is part of the Etruscanning project, that is been funded with support from the European Commission. This blog reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

 

The Regolini-Galassi tomb digitised

19 Jul

Although the Regolini-Galassi tomb yielded one of the most amazing collections of Etruscan objects, which are on display in the Vatican Museum, the tomb itself is currently not accessible to the public.

entrance of the RG tomb

The entrance of the RG tomb (photo: CNR-ITABC)

Vatican museum - room 2

The objects from the RG tomb in the vatican museum (photo: Christie Ray)

In June, CNR-ITABC made a laser scan of the Regolini-Galassi tomb.  A ‘time of flight’ Riegl Z390i laser scanner was used.  The 3D model is built of measurements about 6 mm apart on the surface of the tomb, with an accuracy of maximum 3 mm.

laserscanning the RG tomb

Digitising the RG tomb by laserscanning (photo: CNR-ITABC)

Here are some first results, showing only the shape of the tomb.  Currently the photographs of the walls are being mapped onto this shape, yielding  a photorealistic visualisation of the tomb very soon.

scan_RegoliniGalassi_01

Cross section of the 3D model of the RG tomb (laser scan: CNR-ITABC)

scan_RegoliniGalassi_04

Longitudinal view of the 3D model of the RG tomb (laser scan: CNR-ITABC)

scan_RegoliniGalassi_06

View on the antechamber of the RG tomb (3D model and laser scan: CNR-ITABC)

scan_RegoliniGalassi_07

View from left niche into right niche (3D model and laser scan: CNR-ITABC)

scan_RegoliniGalassi_08

View from the antechamber towards the exit (3D model and laser scan: CNR-ITABC)

The tomb however has been restored significantly, and part of the roof of the cella had collapsed (as can be seen form the photograph below and from the previous post).

RG tomb before restoration

The RG tomb before restoration (photo: Vatican Museum)

current state of the RG tomb

Current state of the antechamber and cella of the RG tomb (photo: CNR-ITABC)

An earlier survey of the tomb by Malgherini also shows this damage in the cella.

Malgherini_ground_plan

Ground plan of the RG tomb, with clearly visible damage in the cella on the right (by Malgherini)

Currently, there are several large stones inside the RG tomb.  We will check if these stones are part of the separation wall between cella and antechamber (the so-called window).

current state cella RG tomb

Large stone blocks in the cella of the RG tomb (photo: CNR-ITABC)

As can be seen from all of these images, only a small part of the antechamber of the tomb has a horizontal floor, most of the antechamber and the dromos (entrance part) have a significant slope.   Hence, the question that arises is if this slope is original or if there were stairs ending in a horizontal or faintly sloping floor.  By using ground penetrating radar (also called geo-radar), CNR-ITABC hopes to solve this issue soon.

After the excavation in 1836, the tomb was left open, without any maintenance or protection.  The image below shows the situation in 1838, as drawn by Mrs. Hamilton-Gray during her visit of the tomb (as described in her book Tour to the sepulchres of Etruria in 1839, published in 1843).

entrance_RG_tomb

Entrance to the RG tomb in 1838 (by Mrs. Hamilton Gray)

This blog is part of the Etruscanning project, that is been funded with support from the European Commission. This blog reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

 

A mysterious fibula – revisited

14 Jul

Interpretation and virtual reconstruction of cultural heritage is very much like being a detective. Sometimes we are convinced about a certain possibility but in the back of our head, we have a small voice that wispers we could be wrong…

What is bothering me is the bottom part of the fibulae, that is sitting as a kind of cap over the nose of the deceased.  It all fits, it all has the right size, the early excavation reports says the fibula was found at the position of the head, but still, is there not a second possibility ?

Yesterday, I found a publication that discusses the Regolini-Galassi and the Ponte Sodo fibulae, that we analysed in the previous blog entry.  This publication dismisses the use on the head and proposes the use of the fibula on the abdomen of the female deceased.  If positioned this way, the fibula would fit just under the breastplate.  A possible meaning would be as follows.  The large disk represents the womb of the woman, the horizontal river acts as a kind of belt and the bottom “cup” covers the female genitalia.

While Grifi in his earliest publication (probably 1836) still depicts the fibula at the position of the head, in his 1841 publication, he leaves the question open and doesn’t depict the fibula at all (see image below).

Grifi_1841_cella

The cella of the Regolini-Galassi tomb by Grifi (1841)

Canina in his publication in 1846 (see image below ) puts the fibula in the alternative position, but upside down…

Tomba R-G da Canina_cella

The cella of the Regolini-Galassi tomb by Canina (1846)

A second question that goes with that is how the shroud was used. Many Etruscan depictions of the deceased show them wearing a shroud but not over the head.  A few murals however show a shroud that is also put on the head (see image below) so that it would be conceivable that the shroud was closed over the face.

tomb_of_the_monkey_chiusi

In the Tomb of the Monkey in Chiusi, the deceased woman follows the funeral games from the bier

So, what is the most logical and probable solution?  We need to make a choice very soon to implement it in the 3D reconstruction…

Anyway, those archaeologists in 1836 didn’t have an easy job either.  Below is a drawing, made in 1843, that evocates how the RG tomb looked like when they started excavations (as we noted before, a part of the roof had collapsed).  What we are discussing here, was lying under this pile of stones…

the RG tomb at excavation

The cella of the Regolini-Galassi tomb at excavation in 1836, by Samuel James Ainsley in 1843 (image: British Museum)

This blog is part of the Etruscanning project, that is been funded with support from the European Commission. This blog reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

 

A mysterious fibula

12 Jul

One of the top pieces from the Regolini-Galassi tomb is the large golden fibula that was found  in the cella, where the princess was buried.  One part of the object is decorated by lions, so we can assume that this part should be the top of the object.  The middle part is decorated with zigzag lines, the universal symbol (and hieroglyph) for water. The bottom part looks at first sight like a pond full of ducks.  Behind this bottom part, there is a needle to fasten the fibula.  This object from the Regolini-Galassi tomb has been dated 675-650 BC.

Fibula_Regolini_Galassi

Golden disc fibula from the Regolini-Galassi tomb, 7th century BC (photo: Vatican Museum)

Since the excavation, several theories have been developed on how this fibula was used.  Canina proposed in his 1846 publication that the object would cover the back of the head (see image below).  Canina probaby relies on the observation by the excavators that the fibula was found where the head of the deceased was supposed to be. However, this kind of use is quite impossible as none of the parts of the object are made in a flexible material.  The reason for such an error probably lies in the fact that, after the excavation, most of the objects were locked up in a room in the house of Galassi, a high official in the papal army, before selling them to the Vatican. It looks like the researchers did not have any access to the objects in the first years after the excavations, creating many misinterpretations and confusion.

Canina_fibula

Use of the fibula from the RG tomb following Canina (1846)

Pinza proposed around 1910 another interpretation that showed the fibula as a large decorative element to close a cape, together with all other elements that had been found (jewelry, golden leaf decorations, bronze elements that were interpreted as part of a throne, a silver cup, …).  This proposed use of fibula is quite unrealistic.  Not only is the fibula way too big and is the decoration of the fibula tilted over 90 degrees, the object itself is far too fragile to be used in practical life due to the ultrafine gold granulation.

Princess Larthia by Pinza

Pinza proposes the objects from the RG tomb as status objects of a princess (before 1915, painting by Oreste Mander)

Current research however attaches a more funeral meaning to the object.  When searching for other similar fibulae, at least two other objects are known today, that not only look very alike in shape and structure but seem also to contain the same symbolic elements.  The first object has been found at the Ponte Sodo necropolis at Vulci and has a very similar dating as the previous object (675-650 BC).  It is currently at the Staatliche Antikensammlungen in München.  We see a very similar structure and decoration, and it is a bit smaller than the RG disc fibula.  The upper disk contains depictions of animals, people and probably the sun.  The horizontal elements end in hangers in the form of a double spiral.

Fibula_Muenchen

Disc fibula from Ponte Sodo (Staatliche Antikensammlungen 2331, München)

The second object is older (dated 825-775 BC) and smaller, with a possible provenance from Etruria.  It is currently in the British Museum in London.  Again, the simularity in shape, structure and decoration (note for example the water pattern and the double spiral hangers) is striking.

Fibula_British_Museum

Disc fibula, Etruria?, 825-775 BC (British Museum)

Maurizio Sannibale has written several excellent papers on the symbolism of these objects, but in short, all three objects seem to depict the transition from the world (the upper disc) to the underworld (the lower part) over the river that separates both.  All three objects have also a similar physical structure, with the needle of the fibula behind the bottom part, leaving the top part free-standing.  The top part of all three fibulas is flat, while the bottom part is curved.  All this brings us to believe that such a fibula must have played an important role in the funeral rites and burials in Etruscan culture.

Canina_fibula_front_and_side_view

Side view and front view of the RG disc fibula by Canina (1846)

As many small fibulae have been found in the RG tomb, we believe that the deceased princess was wrapped in a shroud. The fibulae were used to fasten the shroud around the body.  We think that the pin of the large disc fibula was used to fasten it on the shroud at the forehead of the deceased (see image below).  In this way, the freestanding disc would protrude above the head while the curved bottom part would sit over the nose and end at the mouth of the deceased.

 Fibulae RG tomb

Four of the eighteen fibulae from the RG tomb that were probably used to fasten the shroud

fibula_hypothesis

Hypothesis for the place of the disk fibula on a deceased person (Daniel Pletinckx)

It is remarkable that the bottom part of the fibula ends in an image of Hathor (see image below), which would sit on the lips of the deceased (see image above), which could have a symbolic significance (Hathor is the Egyptian goddess of love, fertility and transition to the afterlife).  Please note that the bottom part of all three fibulae mentioned above are slightly assymetric so that the pin can pass next to the nose of the deceased.

Detail of the bottom part of the fibula, containing a depiction of Hathor (photo: Vatican Museum)

When trying to find some iconography that more or less supports this idea, we came immediately to the depiction of Egyptian deities, such as for example Hathor.  She wears the sun disk on top of two cow horns on the head.  Although the larger disk of the fibula seems to depict the living world and not the sun, the position of the fibula on the deceased looks very similar to the symbols  that crown the head of Egyptian gods.

Hathor

Depiction of the Egyptian goddess Hathor (Wikipedia)

Please give your feedback on this hypothesis. If you think it is plausible and compatible with all other knowledge we have about Etruscan funeral practice, we will proceed in creating this in 3D, to be shown in the exhibition in the RMO.

This blog is part of the Etruscanning project, that is been funded with support from the European Commission. This blog reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

The second Lebetes Mystery

11 Jul

The Regolini-Galassi tomb contained three large bronze cauldrons, decorated with animals heads, so-called lebetes (see previous entry).  When trying to visualise the RG tomb in its original state, we not only come across the question where these three lebetes were positioned (see the first Lebetes Mystery) but also how (in other words, if they had a certain support and if yes, which one).

Currently, we know about two nearly identical iron tripods that have the right dimensions to carry the lebetes (Pareti catalogue, numbers 308 and 310).  In the Vatican museum, the two 5-headed lebetes are displayed on top of these tripods. In fact, as they are heavily damaged and corroded, one lebes is shown on a physical reconstruction of the tripod (as can also be seen on this image below from the Pareti catalogue from 1947) .

Lebete and tripods

The two 5-headed lebetes, the reconstructed tripod and one of the original tripods (from Pareti, 1947)

On the other hand, both Grifi (1841, tav. VI) and Canina (1846, tav. LVIII) describe and depict in detail another iron tripod and note that there are two of them.

tripod Canina

One of the two missing tripods, depicted in Canina (1846)

In the Vatican museum, we currently have a very similar tripod in bronze from one of the tombs that surrounded the RG tomb (i.e. the Tomb of the Tripod), but the Canina drawing is too detailed and the differences are too many and too obvious to accept that Canina confused both objects.

bronze tripod from the Tomb of the Tripod

Bronze tripod from the Tomb of the Tripod (Vatican Museum)

Both Grifi (1841, tav. XII) and Canina (1846, tav. L) have clearly depicted these tripods (see letter G in the image below, compare with the 1836 image in this blog entry) so we need to accept that there were two more tripods in the tomb that we don’t have anymore today. The tripods were maybe in bronze, not in iron, as the drawing above suggests a very good conservation.

Canina ground plan RG tomb detail

Detail of the ground plan of the RG tomb by Canina (1846)

Finally we have also a bronze holmos that was standing in antechambre.  The combination holmos – lebes is very common for ceramic versions (see examples below), so we could envision that one of the lebetes was positioned on the holmos.

Holmos

Bronze holmos from the RG tomb in the Vatican Museum

lebeti on holmos

Several examples of lebetes on top of a holmos support

All inside views of the tomb by Grifi and Canina (see below) show that the two tripods next to the bronze bed are empty, so we have three lebetes, five possible supports for the lebetes and two of them are empty, so this looks easy : we put the two iron tripods in the cella with a large and a small lebes on top, and we put the third lebes on the holmos (see 3D visualisation).

inside view by Canina

Inside view of the RG tomb by Canina (1846)

But this does not comply with the available evidence, the holmos is always depicted empty, both in perspective views (see image above) and in the plan views by Grifi and Canina below (indicated as B).  Pareti notes very correctly that the heavy lebetes could not be put on the holmos, which is made of thin sheets of bronze, and not capable of carrying heavy weights.  So it is quite probable that the holmos did not carry any object at the closure of the tomb.

entrance RG tomb Grifi 1836

The entrance of the RG tomb by Grifi (1836)

entrance RG tomb Canina 1846

The entrance of the RG tomb by Canina (1846)

And there are more observations that lead us to believe that the holmos was not used as support for another object.  First of all, we have to notice that the bronze holmos is not at all functional, it is most probably a bronze replica of a ceramic holmos.  A ceramic holmos  was used for cooking and warming food, with charcoal burning in the cone shaped foot of the holmos and hot air flowing between the bell shaped top part of the holmos and cauldron, standing on the holmos.  The top part of the bronze holmos of the RG tomb is closed on the inside, so it can not function at all, hence it is a replica for funeral use, depicting a household device for cooking.  Also, nearly every holmos we know today is made of ceramic material, there are nearly no bronze ones.

ceramic holmos with bronze cauldron

Bronze cauldron on ceramic holmos (Tomb of Boccoris, Tarquinia, 8th cent BCE, Museo Nazionale, Tarquinia)

Secondly, it has been proposed that incense could be burning in the top part of the bronze holmos.  Although this is completely contradictory to the function that this bronze holmos mimics, this is technically possible.  But there is other evidence that contradicts such a use.  If we consider the tripods as supports for incense burning, and if we look closer to all available tripods, we see that all of the tripods have supports to put fire under the recipient that contains the incense.  So it looks like the incense was heated, not burned.  Mrs. Hamilton Grey, who visited the RG tomb in 1838, describes in her book Tour to the sepulchres of Etruria, pg. 25 : “…a tripod, with a vessel containing some strange looking lumps of a resinous substance, and which on being burnt proved to be perfumes so intensely strong, that those who tried them were obliged to leave the room“. So maybe the incense was not supposed to be burned, but to be heated.

In the same book, Mrs. Hamilton Grey writes (pg. 334) on the other hand: “One vase for perfumes, also made of bronze, stood towards the entrance, consisting of three globes, one above the other; near to which there was something like a candelabra, and beyond it, just at the door, was a tripod surmounted by a vessel in which incense had been burned, probably during the funeral rites, to prevent infection.”  This description again hints at the same conclusions above: at the entrance, there was a holmos without any other vessel on top, then an elaborated tripod (“candelabra”, see top image) without any vessel, then another type of tripod with a vessel on top, in which we can locate the resinous incense that she describes on pg. 25.

All this brings us to the conclusion that in the cella, there were incense burners with even incense in them, while in the antechambre, all supports, that can be interpreted as incense burners, are empty.  This looks pretty much like another mystery…  One of the next blog entries will try to solve this mystery !

This blog is part of the Etruscanning project, that is been funded with support from the European Commission. This blog reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

The first Lebetes Mystery

8 Jul

Amongst the most outstanding objects from the Regolini-Galassi tomb are the three lebetes (bronze cauldrons). Two of these lebetes are nearly identical and have five protruding lion heads, the third one is smaller and carries six griffin heads, looking inwards.

5-headed lebeti

One of the two bronze lebetes with 5 lion heads

6-headed lebeti with dragons

Bronze lebes with 6 griffin heads

detail lion head

Detail of one of the lion heads of the larger lebes

detail dragon head

Detail of one of the griffin heads of the smaller lebes

When looking into all available sources to position these lebetes in the tomb, some really tough questions pop up.  First of all, in none of the drawings we find all three lebetes.  In the very first drawings of the tomb layout by Grifi, two lebetes are depicted (see image below, letters O and P).  The legend that goes with the drawing says O is the large lebes while P is the small lebes.  This is the oldest and most precise localisation of two of the lebetes, in other words the most probable localisation, so we will take this as the basis for the virtual reconstruction.  The inconsistency that the smaller lebes (having 6 heads) is depicted with only 5 heads (see below, letter P) is probably due to a misunderstanding with the person who made the engraving, this kind of error is quite common when a third person is making the drawing.

detail RG tomb plan Grifi 1836

Detail of the cella of the RG tomb by Grifi

But where is the third lebes with the lion heads ?  None of the available drawings ever shows three lebetes… None of the reports or texts talks about this third lebes…  When looking in detail to both lebetes with lion heads, we cannot find any difference, so these heads need to have been cast from the same mold, and they need to have been produced together, so chances are very high they were placed together in the tomb. But why did the excavators not report they had found two identical lebetes together?

A possible explanation could be the following.  When the princess was buried in the cella, one lebes with lion heads was placed inside the cella (that was closed with large stones, only leaving a small window open) and one outside the cella. These lebetes were probably used as incense burners, to mask the odour of the decaying body.  When the prince was buried later on, the lebes outside the cella could have been put aside (for example in the left hand niche) to make place for the objects of the prince.  But this is only guessing, we will never know…

So we will adapt the 3D draft reconstruction to reflect these conclusions. Next post is about the second Lebetes Mystery…

This blog is part of the Etruscanning project, that is been funded with support from the European Commission. This blog reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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