While we’re preparing for some extra photography and digitisation of objects from the Regolini-Galassi tomb in the Museo Gregoriano Etrusco, we studied the objects from new photography we kindly received from this museum. And indeed, the objects do tell us an important story, that can be crucial in the visualisation decisions we need to make for the virtual reconstruction of the Regolini-Galassi tomb in the 7th century BC.
Let’s focus here on two objects that are on display in the museum (see image below). The first object is the bronze holmos, a symbolic replica of a ceramic holmos, that was used in Etruscan times as a stand to warm food and that was put in the tomb for the deceased to be able to continue to feast in the afterlife. We see that this object is deformed globally and has specific corrosion and deformation marks. The second object is a bronze lebes, a cauldron that was probably used to serve wine, mixed with honey and spices. With the lebes on top of the holmos, the rim sits at 1,24 m above ground level, which is quite OK for taking wine from the cauldron.
Most of the perimeter of the conical foot of the holmos is corroded. This can be understood easily as the holmos was standing on the damp floor of the tomb. The contact with the soil and the changing humidity in such a tomb trigger chemical processes that oxidise the bronze and corrode it locally.
As shown in the image below, the bell shaped top part has a distinct deformation. We think that this goes together with the corrosion of the foot, that made the holmos fall down and hit something, causing not only this local deformation, but also an overall deformation of the object, as can be observed from the top image. Such a collapse only can happen if a heavy object such as the lebes was on top of the holmos and would have reinforced the global and local deformation of the holmos. From the excavation drawings, we know that the holmos was standing on the slightly sloping dromos, the access to the antechamber.
The top part has also a distinct corrosion pattern that only can be explained if the holmos was lying on the ground, and most of the top part was touching the damp floor of the tomb. The lebes, that was potentially on top of the holmos, has the same kind of corrosion and deformation patterns (see image below). The object also has hit something significantly and has a large zone that is corroded away, probably through contant with the tomb floor. As this zone is not the bottom part but a side part of the object, the corrosion is probably not due to the fact that the object was simply placed on the ground when being put in the tomb. So it is quite possible that the lebes was on top of the holmos, and that both fell down due to the corrosion of the foot part of the holmos. Both objects can have hit other objects or the wall of the tomb, the lebes can have rolled down the slope of the dromos (which had a steepness of about 5 degrees) to end up on an atypical place somewhere in the antechamber (so that the excavators didn’t see the relationship between the holmos and the lebes).
This hypothesis is supported by the fact that the holmos – although in a restored state – is capable of carrying the smaller six-headed lebes, despite the remarks of Pareti (in the catalogue of the RG tomb objects in 1947) that the holmos is made of a thin sheet of bronze that cannot support the lebetes. This could be true for the larger and much more heavier 5-headed lebetes, but it works for the 6-headed lebes which is much lighter.
We can conclude that both the 6-headed lebes and the bronze holmos contain specific corrosion and deformation patterns that make the hypothesis very plausible that they were together and on top of each other. Further study will show if these observations are maybe the solution to the first and second Lebetes Mystery? So, stay tuned and feel free to give your input and observations by posting a reply.
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.