Tag Archives: Regolini Galassi tomb

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.

Italia_del_futuro

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_at_Italia_del_futuro

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_Italia_del_futuro

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

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.

Etruscanning3D

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 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 a 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 millenium 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 675BC (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

Protoceratops reconstruction (image: Nobu Tamura)

Protoceratops

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

Turanoceratops reconstruction (image: Sergey Krasovskiy)

Turanoceratops

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

Sinoceratops reconstruction

Sinoceratops

Sinoceratops skull (image: Lukas Panzarin)

sinoceratops_front

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

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).

greek

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

Assyrian

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

holmos_lebeti_Praeneste

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

greek

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

Greek

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.

frill

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 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.

met

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

megiddo

Ivory carving from Megiddo, 13th century BC, Oriental Institute, Unversity 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.

 

The holmos and lebes digitally restored

28 Nov

The bronze holmos of the Regolini-Galassi tomb is a very elaborated and beautiful object that has suffered significant damage and corrosion.

bronze holmos

Bronze holmos from the Regolini-Galassi tomb (photo: Vatican Museums)

To reveal the beauty of this object, we have unwrapped its decoration and used this image to create the line drawing of the engraved decoration.  Based upon this engraving and upon detailed study of the applied embossing, we have created a displacement map of the decoration of each of the parts of the holmos.

holmos unwrapped texture

Unwrapped decoration of the holmos cone (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

The displacement map is created in the same way as for the other objects: we simulate the engraving and embossing process in different layers of a Photoshop image, that is overlaid on the unwrapped texture.

Depth map holmos cone

Displacement map of the holmos cone (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

The displacement map is transformed into a normal map in Unity3D, giving a very nice real time rendering of the bronze object.

DROMOS8_new

Digitally restored holmos, placed in the Regolini-Galassi tomb (image: CNR-ITABC)

Digitally restored holmos, placed in the Regolini-Galassi tomb (image: CNR-ITABC)

DROMOS10_new

Digitally restored holmos, placed in the Regolini-Galassi tomb (image: CNR-ITABC)

The 6-headed lebes also suffered deformation and damage, so we performed digital restoration on this object as well.

6-headed lebes

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

In this case, we derived the unwrapped texture from a 3D model that was made from dense stereo matching on a set of photographs taken with an object tent.

3D photography of the lebes

Photography of the lebes in an object tent for creating the 3D model (photo: Vatican Museums)

detail of lebes

Detail of the engraving of the lebes (photo: Vatican Museums)

We first identified the full engraving of the lebes on the unwrapped texture, completing the missing parts.  Then, we painted the embossed features in a similar way as the other objects, through observation of those features on the many photographs taken.

lebes_depth_map_comp

Displacement map superimposed upon the unwrapped texture of the lebes (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

The displacement map was imported in Unity3D and translated into a normal map for real time visualisation (see images below, compare with images above).  All digitally restored objects are integrated in the new version of the application.

digitally restored six-headed lebes

Digitally restored six-headed lebes (image:CNR-ITABC)

Digitally restored six-headed lebes

Digitally restored six-headed lebes (image:CNR-ITABC)

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.

 

The situla restored digitally

27 Nov

One of the outstanding silver objects from the Regolini-Galassi tomb  is a situla, a ritual bucket to contain holy water or milk.  The situla is only preserved partially and consisted of a wooden cilindrical bucket decorated with a silver cover showing three animals and palmettes, as the symbol of life.

Silver situla

Silver and wood situla of the Regolini-Galassi tomb (photo: Vatican Museums)

The silver decoration was found by the excavators in a fragmented state and recovered only partially.  Presumably, the situla was suspended in the triangular window opening (see image below) and when the situla fell down, it broke and many fragments that fell on the ground were destroyed by corrosion.

situla suspended in triangular window

Situla suspended in the triangular window of the tomb (image: CNR-ITABC)

We digitised the situla by turntable photography (so that the cylinder could be unwrapped as one image) and closeup photography, so that the hinge and the chain could be modelled in 3D by hand.  The main goal of unwrapping the cylindrical silver sheet was to digitally restore it.  The physical restoration has not been documented and dates back probably to the 19th century.

photographing the situla

Photographing the situla on a turntable at the Museo Etrusco Gregoriano (photo: CNR-ITABC)

The resulting photographs were assembled into one image, depicting the cylindrical surface of the situla.  As can be seen from the images below, the silver sheet has also been embossed and engraved.  The digital restoration focused on understanding the production process and improving the physical restoration, based upon that knowledge, as the parts that have been added do no contain any engraving or embossing.  It appeared also that a  few small parts of the original silver are missing (see for example the wing of the griffin below).

unwrapped decoration of situla

Unwrapped decoration of the situla (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

detail of situla decoration

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

The digital restoration was implemented through the creation of a displacement map, which is the most efficient technique to deal with embossed and engraved objects (see also our blog post on the digital restoration of a patera).  In Photoshop, we created extra layers on top of the unwrapped situla decoration image, one layer for the engraving, one layer for the embossing.  Additional layers have been introduced to simulate the deformation of the metal when engraving. We also created a transparency map to indicate the form of the cutouts in the silver sheet.

restored depth map

Digitally restored displacement map of the situla (by Visual Dimension bvba)

Study of the unwrapped image showed that the palmettes were made by hammering the shape with a tool in the form of the palmette.  This production process was simulated in Photoshop.  The resulting transparency and displacement maps are used in the interactive real time visualisation system that has been implemented by CNR-ITABC (see image below).

digitally restored situla

The digitally restored situla in the Regolini-Galassi tomb (image: CNR-ITABC)

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.

 

New version of the Regolini-Galassi tomb visualisation

26 Nov

After quite a long break, we’re back to continue to update this blog.  CNR-ITABC in Rome has been working hard on creating a new version that has been demonstrated at the Italian Science Festival in Genua (Oct 25 – Nov 4, 2012) and at the ArcheoVirtual exhibition that took place in the context of the Borsa Mediterranea del Turismo Archeologico in Paestum, Italy (Nov 15-18, 2012).

New version of Regolini-Galassi tomb 3D application

New version of Regolini-Galassi tomb 3D application (image: CNR-ITABC)

At the Science Festival,  many children could use the application, which was hosted and evaluated by the V-MusT European network.  The V-MusT stand had about 4000 visitors.

Etruscanning3D at Genova

Etruscanning3D at Science Festival in Genova

At ArcheoVirtual, where a large number of new virtual museum applications where demonstrated, the Etruscanning3D application was also evaluated by the V-MusT team.  The visitors were very positive about the new application.

Etruscanning3D at ArcheoVirtual

Etruscanning3D at ArcheoVirtual 2012

At ArcheoVirtual, Etruscanning3D received the Award for best application in the category “New Interaction” and was the virtual museum that was appreciated the most by the visitors of the exhibition.

ArcheoVirtual Award ceremony

Etruscanning 3D receives the “New Interaction Award” at ArcheoVirtual 2012

The new version not only contains many more digitally restored objects, but allows also to navigate freely through the tomb and to select objects.  You will read more about the digital restoration of the objects in the next posts of this blog.

restored holmos

The restored holmos at the entrance of the Regolini-Galassi tomb (image:CNR-ITABC)

restored shields

The restored bronze shields in the Regolini-Galassi tomb (image:CNR-ITABC)

main chamber

The main burial chamber (image: CNR-ITABC)

In April 2013, the new version of the Etruscanning3D application will be installed permanently in the Vatican Museums.

The Disc Fibula revisited

11 Dec

The ongoing exhibition Etruscans at the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam and the National Museum for Antiquities in Leiden brings together many splendid Etruscan objects from several Italian museums.  Through the Etruscanning VR application, many more objects are shown in a digital way.  One of the most splendid objects that is shown in this VR application is a large golden disc fibula, that is shown on the body of the deceased princess that was buried in the Regolini-Galassi tomb.

disc fibula

Golden disc fibula from the Regolini-Galassi tomb, dated 675-650 BC (photo: Vatican Museums)

Only a few similar objects are known (see two images below).  Maurizio Sannibale, the curator of the Museo Gregoriano Etrusco, where this large disc fibula resides, considers this object as a symbol of the transition from life (the top disc) to the afterlife (the bottom curved element) over the rivers (the middle bars) that separate the world and the underworld.

disc fibula München

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

In this double exhibition in Amsterdam and Leiden, several objects are shown from the Etruscan collection of the Allard Pierson museum itself.  Three of them are nice but small disc fibulae in bronze, that resemble another small disc fibula in gold in the British Museum, probably coming from Etruria.

disc fibula British Museum

Etruscan disc fibula in gold, dated 825-775 BC (photo: British Museum)

disc fibula British Museum

Detail Etruscan disc fibula, dated 825-775 BC (photo: British Museum)

However, these disc fibulae from the Allard Pierson Museum reveal an important secret.  As can be seen on the photograph below, all three fibulae are very similar in shape, structure and size to the one in British Museum.

disc fibulae APM

Three Etruscan disc fibulae from the Allard Pierson Museum (photo: Christie Ray)

Only the fibula on the left (see image above) has a middle part that depicts the river and has a slightly different bow.  All three fibulae carry the same decoration (see images below) as the one in British Museum: the  squares (maybe sun crosses) or swastikas on the top disc, the two or three bands that surround the top disc and seem to depict rivers through zigzag lines, the zigzag lines on the middle horizontal bar, probably depicing water and the zigzag lines on the bottom bow part.  When we compare these four small disc fibulae with the two bigger ones that are depicted above, we see a striking analogy of the same symbols that appear on the same parts with very similar shapes.  If we assume that the top disc depicts the world, this reveals the known depiction of the world surrounded by water on all sides, which is the first world model from the Bronze Age .

disc fibula APM

Close-up view of left disc fibula (photo: Christie Ray)

disc fibula APM

Close-up view of middle disc fibula (photo: Allard Pierson Museum)

disc fibula APM - detail

Detail of middle disc fibula with swastikas (photo: Allard Pierson Museum)

Closer inspection also reveals that the middle and the right fibula had also a horizontal bar attached on the small bow that protrudes just below the disc (see image above). In other words, we can assume quite safely that all fibulae shown here had a horizontal bar. This makes the similarity even more striking. Note the horizontal bar probably detached easily as the surface of the small bow, on which it was soldered, was very small, hence proving that such fibulae were used for funeral purposes only.

Based on this knowledge, we can identify many more disc fibulae that have the same characteristics: the disc (world) surrounded by sets of lines (water, rivers) and carrying depictions of life or swastikas, the small bow, to which the horizontal bar (river) was attached (but which is easily lost) and the bow, on which zigzag lines seem to depict water. Below, we show one from British Museum, which is older than the other fibulae shown above.

disc fibula British Museum

Disc fibula, dated 1000-880 BC, from Italy (photo: British Museum)

disc fibula British Museum

Disc fibula, dated 1000-880 BC, from Italy (photo: British Museum)

Many more fibulae can be identified if we allow a slightly wider variety of depictions of the same symbols. In the one below, from British Museum, the disc fibula below symbolises the waters around the “world” through one single ripple, very similar to the Ponte Sodo fibula shown above, while the water on the bow is symbolised through discs.

disc fibula British Museum

Disc fibula, dated 800-700BC, from Italy (photo: British Museum)

disc fibula British Museum

Disc fibula, dated 800-700BC, from Italy (photo: British Museum)

So, what has this to do with the virtual reconstruction of the Regolini-Galassi tomb?  We have proposed two hypotheses concerning the placement of the fibula on the body of the deceased: or it is placed on top of the face, or it is placed on the abdomen.

From the analysis above, we can conclude that the Regolini-Galassi disc fibula is not a decorative object, adorning the body of the deceased, but relates to an old symbol that seems to carry a consistent message of transition to afterlife, as the decoration and shape of these fibulae remain nearly identical over several centuries.

When trying to interpret this particular shape and decoration, we can make the link to the belief of the Etruscans that dying was being reborn.  We could interpret the bow of these fibulae as the expanded abdomen or “baby bump” of women, the water symbol on the bow as depicting the water that surrounds the fetus.  As each of the three parts of the fibulae carries the symbol of water, they probably also stress that water is the symbol of life, from birth to death.

In this sense, these fibulae probably can be compared to an Iron age bronze fibula from a grave in Lorestan, Iran, on which a woman is giving birth.

Lorestan fibula Louvre

Lorestan fibula, Iran, dated 1500-700 BC (photo: Louvre museum, Paris)

To conclude, we can state that the Regolini-Galassi disc fibula has a much higher chance of being positioned on the abdomen than being positioned on the face, not only because of size of the object but especially because of the symbolism of the object.

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

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.