A window on eternity

11 Aug

In a previous entry, we concluded that two people were buried in the Regolini-Galassi tomb, most probably a princeps (cinerary urn in the right niche) and his wife (inhumed in the cella), and that both rooms in the tomb had a triangular window towards the central antechamber.

VR antechamber

Antechamber of the RG tomb with triangular windows to the cella (middle) and right niche (right)

Colonna and Di Paolo (Il letto vuoto, la distribuzione del corredo e la finestra della Tomba Regolini-Galassi, 1997) link these triangular windows to palace architecture in the Levant and Greece in the Bronze and Iron Age (see example below) and link the use of such architecture to the status of the persons buried in this tomb.

Ugarit palace entrance

Entrance to the palace at Ugarit (Wikipedia)

There is plenty of evidence for the triangular window of the cella.  CNR-ITABC will verify from the 3D scan data of the tomb if the stones, that are present in the cella, belonged to the closing wall of the cella.  They look like have the right dimensions to be just that.

interior cella RG tomb

Stones from the closing wall of the cella? (photo: Daniel Pletinckx)

The evidence for the triangular window of the right niche is present both in written sources and in the tomb itself.  E. Paschinger writes in Über ein mögliches familiäres Verhältnis der in der Tomba Regolini-Galassi bestattenen Personen in Antike Welt 24 (1993) that the entrance to the right niche was closed by a stone slab, that was found broken in the tomb.  Alessandro Regolini, who excavated the tomb in 1836, writes in 1843 a letter to his colleague Achille Gennarelli, stating  La sola camera a destra, contenente l’olla colle ossa, era fortemente chiusa con pietre del paese”.  The fortemente possibly refers to the fact that the excavators had to break the stone slab to get into the right niche.  If a stone slab had to close the complete entrance (see image below), it needed to have a quite complex, concave form or to consist of at least two pieces.  It looks more logical to put one slab, up to the height where the triangular part begins.

entrance right niche

Laser scan data showing the tomb cross section and the right niche entrance (scan data: CNR-ITABC)

Other evidence that the stone slab only covered the lowered part of the entrance can be found in the entrance itself.  In the vertical part of the entrance sides, we see clearly a zone where the stone recides a few centimeters, providing a space to fit in the stone.  Probably, remains of the plate, or foundations for it, are still protruding out of the floor (see image below).  Note that the floor of the niche is lower than the floor of the antechamber.

laser scan antechamber

Laser scan of the tomb, showing the slot of the stone slab closing the entrance (right) (CNR-ITABC)

Closing the niche with one stone slab probably allowed to do this during the funeral event. Maybe guests at the funeral banquet could enter the grave after the closing of the niche and pay their respect for the last time to the remains of the deceased princeps.  Visibility analysis shows that the opening, that is left after putting the stone slab, perfectly allows to see the cinerary urn and the mourner statuettes around the urn (see images below).  We only can guess that people came into the grave to do this, we will never know for sure…

view on right niche

VR view on the urn by a person of 1,6 m high from the left side of the tomb (Daniel Pletinckx)

view on the right niche

VR view on the urn by a person of 1,6 m high from the right side of the tomb (Daniel Pletinckx)

This brings us also to do visibility analysis on the cella. The closing wall is much higher (1,67 m) but in front of the wall, there is a step of 30 cm high (see image below), formed by the foundation of the closing wall.

VR reconstruction antechamber RG tomb

VR visualisation of the antechamber with triangular windows to the cella (left) and right niche (right)

So maybe we can still look into the cella when standing on the step?  The image below shows that this is not really the case.  Being 1,6 m high and even on the tip of your toes, you don’t see much…

VR view on cella

VR view of the cella by a person of 1,6 m high, on the tip of his toes on the step (Daniel Pletinckx)

After all, a decaying corpse is maybe not what we want to see…

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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