Update on the 3D reconstruction of the RG tomb

2 Sep

We made an update of the 3D model of the Regolini-Galassi tomb, implementing the latest conclusions and adding the objects that still were missing.  Recent research by CNR-ITABC has shown that there is a floor under the current deposit of mud and that the dromos (entrance area of the grave) was still sloping downward (at a few degrees) towards the antechamber that has a level floor.  This aspect has not been implemented in this reconstruction yet for simplicity.  As explained in a earlier post, we choose to put the 6-headed lebes on top of the bronze holmos.

tomb 010911 1

View on the dromos (3D reconstruction: Visual Dimension)

tomb 010911 4

View on the antechamber (3D reconstruction: Visual Dimension)

We reconstructed the biga (war chariot) and have put it inside the right niche, next to the cinerary urn that contains the ashes of the warrior.  We verified that the reconstructed biga, as present in the storage of the Museo Gregoriano Etrusco (but not currently on display as there are some doubts about the reconstruction), can enter the tomb and the niche when taken apart.  The beam that connects the chariot to the horses (see photograph below) is not depicted but could fit inside the niche.

tomb 010911 11

View inside the right niche (3D reconstruction: Visual Dimension)


Reconstructed biga, based upon remains in the right niche (photo: Vatican Museums)

The left niche has a large collection of storage vessels (ollae) and other utilitarian vessels (many of the smaller ones are not depicted).  The bronze vessel in the foreground (see image below) is a Villanovan urn that is clearly older than the other objects in the tomb, probably containing the ashes of an ancestor (see also photograph below).  We also have put there the Etruscan inkpot (see also photograph below) that is said to have been found in the Regolini-Galassi tomb.  The object is quite fascinating, as it is covered by Etruscan writing, but its function and its provenance are quite unclear.  This delicate object looks like it does not belong to a storage room, maybe it should go into the cella or the right niche, as very little is known were it was found during the excavation.

tombe 010911 13

View inside the left niche (3D reconstruction: Visual Dimension)

Villanovan urn

Bronze Villanovan urn from the RG tomb (photo: Daniel Pletinckx)


Small bucchero vase - so called inkpot - with Etruscan inscriptions (photo: Daniel Pletinckx)

We started putting in also most of the larger objects in the cella.  As explained in an earlier post, we have choosen to put the two large lebetes on their respective tripods in the cella.  We have added several paterae, a ribbed one (only partially preserved), an undecorated one (see photograph below), and a silver kylix (shallow bowl with foot, see photograph below) plus a set of bronze vessels (see photograph below).

tomb 010911 15

View inside the cella (3D reconstruction: Visual Dimension)

silver patera

Undecorated silver patera - unrestored - with nail in the middle (photo: Daniel Pletinckx)


Silver kylix with golden handles and nail (middle bottom) (photo: Daniel Pletinckx)

ten bronze basins

A set of ten bronze vessels from the RG tomb (photo: Vatican Museums)

On the floor, we have put a large collection of silverware, that is most probably related to the funeral banquet.  Most of these splendid objects therefore suffered from corrosion or from the partial collapse of the roof.

tomb 010911 18

View inside the cella with a large set of silver vessels on the floor (3D reconstruction: Visual Dimension)

silver bowl

One out of five silver bowls (photo: Daniel Pletinckx)

silver kotyle

One out of six silver kotyle vases (photo: Daniel Pletinckx)

silver pitcher

One out of two silver pitchers (photo: Daniel Pletinckx)

silver vase

Small silver vase with golden handles (photo: Daniel Pletinckx)

Some objects nevertheless remain enigmatic. For example, there are four nearly identical decorated bronze discs (see image below), two discs have a lion walking to the left, the other two have a lion walking to the right.  Currently, there is no idea what these discs are or how they were used.  They are too small (40 cm diameter) to be considered as shields, and don’t have the right form to be considered as paterae.

bronze disc

One of four, nearly identical, bronze decorated discs (photo: Daniel Pletinckx)

All four discs have nail holes, like many other objects in the RG tomb. These nail holes however are quite different, they appear in pairs all around the rim (see image below) and are quite small. The nails are in bronze and appear to have fixed the disc on a softer material than stone, probably wood.  The object should be symmetrical to accomodate these 2 by 2 identical discs.  At this moment however, there is no object in the RG tomb that could have served as an obvious basis for these discs.

nail holes

One of the bronze discs with indication of the nail holes (photo: Vatican Museums)

Until recently, a reconstruction of the 4-wheeled chariot, that was used probably to transport the corpse of the warrior, was presented in the Museo Gregoriano Etrusco in the Vatican.  Currently, it isn’t on display anymore as the museum wants to revise the reconstruction. This chariot is currently the only known object in the tomb that could be asscociated with these four bronze discs.  The discs could fit on the wheels and cover the protruding wheel axes. Below, you will find the 3D dummy model of this reconstructed chariot without and with the discs.

cart without discs

Current reconstruction of the 4-wheeled chariot (reconstruction: Visual Dimension)

cart with discs

Alternative reconstruction of the 4-wheeled chariot with the bronze discs attached to the wheels (reconstruction: Visual Dimension)

The result is plausible but not really convincing, the discs are somewhat too small (40 cm diameter) to fit on the presumed wheels (67 cm diameter).  Research needs to be conducted on other chariots from other tombs.

It is considered quite improbable that the discs would have been fitted on the outside of the biga.  So, there aren’t any other alternatives available for the moment, it is completely unclear on what object these discs go.  If you have any idea, please do leave a reaction!

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.


9 Responses to “Update on the 3D reconstruction of the RG tomb”

  1. Michèle Hendricks September 5, 2011 at 9:11 pm #

    Fascinating blog, Daniel. The discs are certainly a mystery. I’m busy translating the object texts for the Dutch exhibitions and have a small mystery of my own – the ‘vuurbok’ which is 20172 in the Museo Gregorio Etrusco – do you have a suggestion for the Engish name for this? I only have a very fuzzy photo and I’m sure it was more than just a trivet (a stand for pots on the fire)

    • danielpletinckx September 6, 2011 at 6:28 am #

      Hi Michèle,

      the right English word is firedog, alare in Italian. You find more on it on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_dog In the blog, I used “fire-dog” as spelling but when looking it up, I see that “firedog” and “fire dog” are more common, please check it to be sure.

      A couple of firedogs go together with a set of spits. The fire is burning between the firedogs, so that meat can be roasted on the spits when put on the firedogs (see images in the Wikipedia article).

      I will send you good photographs, a virtual reconstruction of a couple of firedogs can be seen at https://regolinigalassi.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/tombe-met-dummies-180711_5.jpg

      Hope this helps


  2. Carla Antonaccio September 15, 2011 at 6:19 pm #

    So, the bronze discs were ‘hubcaps’? Fascinating. This whole effort is very interesting – thank you!

    • danielpletinckx September 15, 2011 at 7:30 pm #

      Well, at least it is a feasible option. I haven’t seen them in other publications yet, but possibly other similar discs in other graves never haven’t been identified as such. If they are no wheelcaps, they belong to some unidentified object with an unidentified function, because what object does needs 4 round bronze discs of 40 cm each?
      We will do more research on this later on this year, we first focus on getting the 3D application ready for the exhibitions on October 13.

      • Dave Mathias April 16, 2012 at 9:36 pm #

        is it possible that the unusual disks actually fit together as 2 halves that form a pair of “spheres”? A lion going left, paired with a lion going right. Do the small “nail holes” around the rims of each half properly line up as attachment points?

      • danielpletinckx May 9, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

        Hi Dave,

        this is a very interesting thought. But there is very little evidience that this would be the case. The nailholes do not pair and rather point towards nailing the disc on a wooden surface than attaching it to another bronze surface. And what would be the function or meaning of such a lens shaped bronze object? Each disc is 5 cm high and 40 cm diameter.

        Best bet today still remains that they are shield bosses, fitting on a wooden shield of about 80 cm diameter.

  3. Juanita Kiburg August 26, 2016 at 1:48 pm #

    I have once read about discs that were found in Italy and they were believed to be sewed upon leather. They were believed to enclose a drinking bottle/canteen. In smaller sizes there are a lot of discs that look like embellishments for clothing.

    There is a chariot found at Mikri Doxipara. At the back of the chariot you can see three discs of reasonable size as decoration. Maybe good for comparison (even though there’s a time difference).

  4. Juanita Kiburg August 26, 2016 at 2:48 pm #

    Earlier I mentioned the discs as sides for a drinking bottle of leather. There is e flask that might give an idea how it would have looked like more or less, though this flask is totally made out of bronze and has legs (that makes the total hight of 60 cm).

    • danielpletinckx August 28, 2016 at 7:26 am #

      Many thanks Juanita for your observation. The nail holes in the bronze disks however are not conform to how a leather bottle would have been constructed, even if it would be a fake one, as grave gift. So I think we rather need to see it as shield decoration.

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