Tag Archives: Etruscanning

Etruscanning 3D at Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome

4 Aug

Objects from the Regolini Galassi tomb

Objects from the Regolini Galassi tomb on display

The Regolini Galassi tomb application was shown in Rome from the 15th of April till the 20th of July 2014 in the context of the exhibition Les Etrusques et la Méditerranée. La cité de Cerveteri/Gli Etruschi e il Mediterraneo. La città di Cerveteri, together with more than 450 masterpieces of the Etruscan culture.

Etruscanning system

The Etruscanning system at the exhibition in PalaExpo (photo: Eva Pietroni)

This exhibition showed several precious objects belonging to the Regolini-Galassi grave goods, together with the Sarcophagus of the Spouses (from the Louvre), the sculpted group of Greppe S. Angelo, terracotta objects from the museums of Berlin, Copenhagen and the Vatican Museum, finds from the Pyrgi sanctuary and some of the most recent discoveries carried out in the urban area of Cerveteri, in the necropolis and in the surrounding territories.  The exhibition showed the relationships that Etruscans had in the Mediterranean area through the history of Cerveteri, one of their most important cities. This exhibition was curated by F. Galulier, L. Haumesser, P. Santoro, V. Bellelli, A. Russo Tagliente and R. Cosentino.

Etruscanning system in action

The Etruscanning system in action (photo: Eva Pietroni)

The exhibition has been jointly organized by Louvre Lens and Palaexpo, thanks to the collaboration between the Département des antiquités grecques, étrusques et romaines of the Louvre, the Istituto di studi sulle civiltà italiche e del Mediterraneo antico of the CNR and the Soprintendenza per i beni archeologici dell’Etruria meridionale.  It had already been hosted in the Louvre Lens from the 5th December 2013 till the 10th of March 2014.

child using the Etruscanning system

A child using the Etruscanning system (photo: Eva Pietroni)

2013 in review

5 Jan

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Etruscanning 3D wins the Italian Heritage Award 2013

12 Nov

On October 4, 2013, the VR visualisation of the Regolini-Galassi tomb, as part of the Etruscanning 3D project, was awarded the Italian Heritage Award for Communication and Dissemination of Cultural Heritage.  The award was given to Eva Pietroni of CNR-ITABC, who was coordinating the technical part of the project.

Eva Pietroni

Eva Pietroni (CNR-ITABC) receives the Italian Heritage Award for the Etruscanning 3D project (photo: Bartolomeo Trabassi, CNR-ITABC)

The Etruscanning 3D  team is very honoured to receive this prestigious award and wants to thank all involved partners and people that made this possible.

Etruscanning team

From left to right: Maurizio Sannibale (Vatican Museums), arch. Paolo Salonia (director CNR-ITABC), Augusto Palombini and Eva Pietroni (CNR-ITABC), Iefke Van Kampen (Museo dell’Agro Veientano), photo: Bartolomeo Trabassi, CNR-ITABC

In the meantime, Etruscanning is preparing for its last stop in its world tour as part of the Italia del Futuro tour, it will go to Budapest.

Yesterday the exhibition The Etruscans – Una Storia Particolare closed after a very successful prolongation and 88.005 visitors!  The Etruscanning setup performed flawlessly. Thanks to the team of the Tongeren museum!  The virtual Regolini-Galassi tomb can be seen permanently in the Etruscan division of the Vatican Museums.

Monte Michele

Monte Michele Tomb no. 5 application at the Digital Heritage Expo (photo: Daniel Pletinckx)

In the last week of October 2013, the Monte Michele Tomb application was demonstrated at the Digital Heritage Expo in Marseille.  More than 5000 visitors were exploring the latest developments in digital heritage, including the attendees of the Digital Heritage 2013 conference. The application itself will be installed soon in the Villa Giulia museum in Rome. You can find a preview of the application here.

This blog is part of the Etruscanning 3D project, that is being partially 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.


Etruscanning in Tokyo

22 May

The Etruscanning application showing the reconstructed Regolini-Galassi tomb is part of a technological exhibition Italia del futuro, that is travelling around the world.  The exhibition is organised and promoted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Recently, the exhibition was shown in Tokyo, in the Istituto Italiano di Cultura from April 17 to May 17, 2013.


The traveling technology exhibition Italia del futuro in the Istituto Italiana di Cultura in Tokyo

The Etruscanning application is a contribution of CNR to this exhibition, as example of virtual heritage.


Etruscanning installation (left) at the exhibition Italia del futuro

The president of CNR, Doct. Luigi Nicolais, was present at the opening of the exhibition (second person from the left in the image below).


Opening of the exhibition Italia del futuro

The next stop of this exhibition will be in San Franscico, USA, from July 12 to August 23, 2013.

This blog is part of the Etruscanning 3D project, that is being partially 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.


Etruscanning 3D installed in the Vatican Museums

7 Apr

On April 4, 2013, the latest version of the Etruscanning 3D application was inaugurated in the Museo Gregoriano Etrusco in the Vatican Museums.  The installation consists of a non-interactive film that is displayed in Room 2 where the Regolini-Galasssi objects are displayed, and an interactive 3D application with a natural interaction interface in Room 16. On multiple screens within the Vatican Museums, an introduction film to the application was shown.

Vatican museums entrance

Part of the Etruscanning team at the entrance of the Vatican Museums in front of the Etruscanning promo film (from left to right: Wim Hupperetz, René van Beek, Daniel Pletinckx, Christie Ray, Judith Vos, photo: Veerle Delange)

Press conference room

Many people attended the project presentation at the press conference room of the Vatican (photo: Daniel Pletinckx)

The inauguration of the installation was proceeded by presentations by the involved project partners, introduced by Antonio Paolucci, director of the Vatican Museums.  Maurizio Sannibale, curator of the Gregorian Etruscan Museum, provided an introduction to the Regolini-Galassi tomb, and Wim Hupperetz, director of the Allard Pierson Museum and Etruscanning project coordinator, presented the project and the resulting publication.


Presentations were given by Antonio Paolucci (middle), Wim Hupperetz (left) and Maurizio Sannibale (right) (photo: Sofia Pescarin)

Salvatore Garraffo, director of CNR-ITABC, introduced the technology used in the project, while Eva Pietroni (CNR-ITABC) and Daniel Pletinckx (Visual Dimension bvba) explained the natural interaction interface, the digitisation of the museum objects and their digital restoration.  Rita Cosentino (Soprintendenza all’Etruria Meridionale) and Vincenzo Bellelli (CNR-ISMA) provided a wider context for the Regolini-Galassi tomb and its objects.

Introduction film

Introduction film to the virtual reconstruction of the Regolini-Galassi tomb in its museum room (photo: Daniel Pletinckx)

After the presentations, the installation was inaugurated.  In Room 2, where all objects of the Regolini-Galassi tomb are on display, a large screen shows the virtual reconstruction of the tomb with the digitally restored objects integrated in the tomb.  In this way, the objects are shown in their original context in their original state, providing the visitors with an even better appreciation and understanding of the objects.  The film invites the visitors also to use the interactive application, which is located in nearby room (room 16), due to the lack of sufficient space in the Regolini-Galassi room.

Natural interaction interface

Interactive Etruscanning application using a natural interaction interface (photo: Daniel Pletinckx)

In the interactive application, the visitor navigates through the tomb and selects objects and their related stories through simple, natural gestures (such as right arm forward for moving forward) detected by a Kinect camera. When starting, the visitor can select a language (Italian, English, Dutch) and can practice the navigation and object selection when approaching the virtual tomb.  Once inside, the visitor can explore the entrance, antechamber, cella, left and right niche of the tomb with all its objects in place, select specific objects and listen to the stories connected to the objects.  This video shows how it works in English or Italian.

Many newspapers, magazines and news websites covered this inauguration. To name a few: La Repubblica, Il Messagero, Radio Vaticana, Gizmondo, Buone Notizie, Reset Italia, Good News, ArcheoMatica, …

This blog is part of the Etruscanning 3D project, that is being partially 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.


Etruscanning3D in Tongeren

18 Mar

On March 15, 2013, the Gallo-Roman museum of Tongeren, Belgium opened a great exhibition on the Etruscans, named Una Storia Particolare. The exhibition shows a excellent selection of Etruscan objects and ends with the Regolini-Galassi tomb.  Many objects on display are on loan from the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam, the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden and the Vatican Museums.

Regolini-Galassi room

Room dedicated to the Regolini-Galassi tomb (photo: Daniel Pletinckx)

In a separate room, the contour of Regolini-Galassi tomb has been depicted on the floor and some of the objects from the tomb are on display, positioned on the same place as in the original tomb. Key objects which are on display are the six-headed lebes and the bronze holmos.

Regolini-Galassi room

Objects from the Regolini-Galassi tomb (photo: Daniel Pletinckx)

Next to the objects from the Regolini-Galassi, the Etruscanning3D application has been installed, showing the tomb and about 80 digitally restored objects in an interactive way through virtual reality.  This serious games setup is based upon a Kinect camera and uses the version of the software with the hotspots.


The Etruscanning3D application in the Tongeren museum (photo: Daniel Pletinckx)

The exhibition is open until August 25, 2013.  More practical information can be found here.

This blog is part of the Etruscanning 3D project, that is being partially 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.


Did griffins really exist?

28 Jan

While doing the digital restoration of several objects of the Regolini-Galasssi tomb, we noticed that there are many depictions of griffins on these objects.  Griffins were a popular theme in Etruscan art in the Orientalising Period in which this tomb has been built, but they are depicted in a very distinct, consistent way, with two long curls in the neck, which proves that there is an interesting story behind.  What are the origins of griffins, why are they depicted in this peculiar way? For example, a griffin is depicted on the situla which we have restored digitally (see image below).

detail of situla decoration

Detail of the restored situla decoration, showing a griffin (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

As we can see from the image above, the griffin has the body of a lion but has wings and a beak like an eagle, very specific ears and two strange curls at the back of the head.  Other depictions of griffins on objects from the Regolini-Galassi tomb, such as the holmos, are very similar and show the same characteristic features.

griffin on holmos bottom

Griffin on the bottom part of the holmos (photo: Daniel Pletinckx)

griifin on holmos top

Griffin on the top part of the holmos (photo: Daniel Pletinckx)

griffin on holmos top

Griffin on the top part of the holmos (photo: Daniel Pletinckx)

On some objects, the griffins are used more as a decorative element, still with the same characteristics (beak, curls).

disc fibula

Golden disc fibula from the Regolini-Galassi tomb (photo: Vatican Museums)

detail of golden fibula

Detail of the bottom part of the golden fibula showing griffins (photo: Vatican Museums)

golden breast plate

Golden breast plate (photo: Vatican Museums)

detail golden breast plate

Detail of the golden breast plate showing griffins (photo: Vatican Museums)

In 2000, Adrienne Mayor, a historian at Stanford University, published the ground-breaking book The First Fossile Hunters, which makes the link between fossils of extinct animals (such as dinosaurs) and mythical animals (such as the griffin).  More specifically, she states that Scythian nomads, who were mining gold in the Central Asian area in the first millennium BC, told stories about the griffin, a fierce, eagle beaked, lion sized animal that wondered around in their mines, guarding the gold.

The First Fossile Hunters by Adrienne Mayor (2000, 2010)

The First Fossile Hunters by Adrienne Mayor (2000, 2010)

She states that these Scythian miners must have found skeletons of the Protoceratops dinosaur (see book cover above) and that these descriptions were known to Greek traders shortly before 675 BC (the Regolini-Galassi tomb was build around 675-650 BC). In the foreword of the second edition (2010) of this book, she also notes that other similar dinosaurs have been excavated in the Central Asian region such as the Turanoceratops (published in 2009) and the Sinoceratops (published in 2010). When comparing the reconstructions of these animals (see below) with the Scythian, Greek and Etruscan depictions of griffins, we come to very interesting conclusions.

The Protoceratops had a distinct neck shield and birdlike beak.  The animal however was eating plants and had the size of a sheep.  Some skeletons show a crest bone.


Protoceratops reconstruction (image: Nobu Tamura)


Protoceratops skeleton (image: Wikipedia)

Protoceratops front view

Some Protoceratops had a crest bone (image: Wikipedia)

The Turanoceratops was similar but somewhat bigger. In addition to the neck shield, it had two distinct horns and was the size of a lion.


Turanoceratops reconstruction (image: Sergey Krasovskiy)


Turanoceratops skeleton (image: Vadim Glinskiy)

The Sinoceratops on the other hand had only one horn and an elaborated neck shield from which curved hornlets protruded.  On both sides of the neck shield, it had extra horns.  It was the size of a small elephant.


Sinoceratops reconstruction


Sinoceratops skull (image: Lukas Panzarin)


Sinoceratops – front view

Most of these dinosaur remains have been found in the western part of the Gobi desert and the Altai mountains, not far from the Silk road.  This is also the area where the Scythians had their gold mines.  So it is not surprising at all that in Chinese art also griffins appear.  The top depiction in the image below fits very well with the Ceratops neck shield with two holes.

Chinese jade plaques

Chinese jade plaques with griffins (British Museum, photo: Wikipedia)

When we look at Scythian depictions of griffins (see below), we see that the animal has a crest and strange ear-like features at the back of the head that could refer to the neck shield and crest bone of the Protoceratops dinosaur.

Scythian depiction of griffin

Scythian depiction of griffin (image: Wikipedia)

Other Scythian depictions of griffins (below) show also the neck shield (even with the holes) and the crest bone, and seem to suggest even the curved hornlets of the Sinoceratops.


Scythian tattoo depiction of a griffin

Scythian tattoo depiction of a griffin

Scythian tattoo depiction of a griffin

Some Scythian depictions of griffins even seem to refer clearly to the two-horned Turanoceratops.

Scythian depe (6th-5th century)

Scythian gold applique in the form of a griffin  (6th-5th century BC)

It is unclear however if the typical ears of the griffin relate to a misinterpretation of the neck shield of the Protoceratops or to the two horns of the Turanoceratops, or if both depictions have been confused and merged into one.  Some Greek drawings clearly show (see below)  two horns like a Turanoceratops, but also show the crest bone which is more typical for the Protoceratops. Other depictions show clearly the two horns without crest (see below).


Detail of a Greek crater, 375-350 BC, Louvre


Cylinder seal and impression, Mesopotamia, 13th century BC, The Morgan Library & Museum

Greek and Etruscan objects of the 7th-6th century BC show griffins with strange ears connected to a bony neck feature plus a horn on top of the head.  If we assume that the “ears” are an interpretation of the neck shield (because they continue in this strange feature in the neck), this depiction is very consistent with the skeleton of a Sinoceratops.  Detailed information on the appearance of such griffins were probably transferred to the Etruscans through contacts with their gold digging colleagues from Scythia, resulting in a quite different depiction of griffins in the 7th century BC (cfr. the book of Adrienne Mayor).

Etruscan protome of a lebes

Etruscan protome of a lebes, 600-575 BC, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


Etruscan lebes (decorated with griffins and lions) from the Barberini tomb, Praeneste, 650 BC


Pair of Greek griffin protomes, late 7th – early 6th century BC, Art Institute, Chicago


Greek griffin figurine, around 625 BC, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

If we go back to the griffin depictions on the Regolini-Galassi objects (images at the beginning), we see that the most prominent features that relate to the ceratops skeletons are the ears and the neck shield ending in curls.  When looking at recent excavations of Sinoceratops remains, we see that such features stand out remarkably when found.


The frill of a Sinoceratops dinosaur

skull sino

The skull of a Sinoceratops dinosaur with the central horn

But griffins have been depicted already before 700 BC.  These depictions can be found not only in the Middle East but also in the Minoan palace of Crete.  They typically show a griffin as a crested eagle-lion. We also see that the griffin images on the objects of the Regolini-Galassi tomb are still closely related to these older depictions from the Levant, and not to the different Greek depictions (see above) that appear at the same time.


Griffin excavated in Nimrud, Mesopotamia, 9th-8th c. BC, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

Griffin, Syro-Palestinian, 8th century BC, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore


Ivory carving from Megiddo, 13th century BC, Oriental Institute, University of Chicago

Minoan Knossos 17th

Reconstructed wall painting in the Minoan Throne Room at Knossos,  17th century BC

One small note concerning the six-headed lebes from the Regolini-Galassi tomb needs to be made here.  Although nearly every text about this object describes the depicted animals as griffins, close examination shows that the animals do not have any griffin features, but look much more like lions.

6-headed lebes

Bronze six-headed lebes from the Regolini-Galassi tomb (photo:Vatican Museums)

detail lebes protome

Detail of one of the so-called griffin heads of the RG lebes (photo: Daniel Pletinckx)

If  we compare with the other five-headed lebes that is decorated by lion heads, we clearly see the analogy between features of both depictions, such as the whiskers and the teeth (griffins are never depicted with whiskers or teeth).  So the heads of the 6-headed lebes of the Regolini-Galassi tomb do represent lions, no griffins!

5-headed lebeti

Bronze lebes with five lion heads from the Regolini-Galassi tomb (photo: Vatican Museums)

Detail views of the lion heads of the lebes (photo: Daniel Pletinckx)

Detail views of the lion heads of the RG lebes (photo: Daniel Pletinckx)

This blog is part of the Etruscanning 3D project, that is being partially 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.