Etruscan Tombs in Maremma

An Etruscan Civilization
at the Lago dell'Accesa in Maremma

Etruscan archeological site at Lago dell'Accesa, Massa Marittima, Maremma

To date, one hundred and four Etruscan tombs and necropoli have been discovered at the Lago dell'Accesa - the Accesa Lake - archaeological site within the wooded hills of the Macchia del Monte and in six other locations around the lake. Read about the construction of four of them here, their occupants and the artifacts that were found.

The Etruscan civilization at Lago dell'Accesa was established from the sixth century BC as an industrial settlement for the extraction of mineral deposits of silver, lead, ferrous metals and gold (in limited amounts) from the surrounding metalliferous hills. It was organised into distinct dwelling areas - five of which have so far been discovered and excavated - each with its own necropolis. Its main connections with wider Etruria were with the nearby and ruling Etruscan city of Vetulonia.

The archaelogical excavations of the settlement continues during August of each summer under the direction of the University of Florence.

Even if Etruscan tombs and history don't intrigue you that much, I can highly recommend a visit to the lake for its own sake. It is a freshwater lake - the only natural reservoir of freshwater in the northen part of Maremma Grossetana - and contains many species of freshwater fish that you can readily see both in its crystal clear blue waters. And the woodland that covers the hillside is true Mediterranean macchia, rich in animal and plant species. Take a walk in the spring and, in between the extensive rootings of wild boar, the woodland floor is covered in wild flowers... It is a perfect place for a picnic (just keep your eyes open for the snakes in the summer and particularly September).


The Etruscan Tombs at Lago dell'Accesa

Trench Tomb 12 and pseudochamber with tumulus Tomb 12a

Etruscan tombs in Maremma Italy: two superimposed tombs from the 6th or 7th centuries at Lago dell'Accessa, Maremma
Etruscan tombs at Lago dell'Accesa: Tomb 12 and 12a

The Parco tematico della civiltà etrusca Area archeologica dell'Accesa information board reads:

"The two superimposed tombs were built one shortly after the other. The more recent tomb, which belongs to the end of the 7th or early 6th centuries BC., is a single chamber, or, more probably, "pseudo chamber", in the centre of a clay mound, only marked off on the lower side by a low drum built of "palombino" limestone blocks. The chamber was almost totally devastated by plundering and the only surviving objects of its equipment consist of a bucchero kantharos and three Etrusco-Corinthian perfume flasks.

The earlier tomb, dating back to the last decades of the 7th century BC, consists of a large rectangular trench below the more recent structure, partially obliterated by it, though deliberately preserved. It has "palombino" limestone, sandstone and talcum phyllite parapets and a floor of slabs of talcum phyllite.

Two occupants lay on the funeral bed, a man and a woman. Exceptionally well preserved organic remains of the latter have survived. The tomb was only superficially plundered at an unspecified time. Thus its equipment is more or less intact and includes about one hundred objects. Among them are: silver objects (two bracelets, a small ring), bronze objects (a pot stand, a brooch, a fragmentary hand basin), iron objects (a spear point and upper shaft, a knife, a pot stand, a number of brooches). Pottery finds connected with symposia, banquets and female and male toiletries are also significant.

The first sphere yielded a large number of drinking and table vessels in bucchero, buccheroide impasto, figuline clay and filtered impasto (goblets, kantharoi, cups, skyphoi, bowls, and pans), among which three large kantharoi imitating metal prototypes decorated with impressed and engraved motifs and images such as a centaur and horseman are particularly noteworthy.

The second sphere yielded a large range of Etruscan-Corinthian perfume flasks of various shapes.

It is probable that both tombs belonged to members of the same aristocratic family."


Chamber with Tumulus Tomb 21

Etruscan tombs: Chamber with tumulus tomb number 21 at Lago dell'Accesa, Maremma
Etruscan tombs at Lago dell'Accesa: Tomb 21

The Parco tematico della civiltà etrusca Area archeologica dell'Accesa information board reads:

"This is a chamber tomb with a mound marked off by a drum, similar to nearby Tomb 16, both from the structural and orientation points of view. It consists of a rectangular chamber whose walls are built of sandstone and "palombino" limestone.

The entrance, facing westwards is shut off by a large travertine slab, which was found in a different position to its original one, after plundering. The chamber entrance wall consists of two large "palombino" limestone slabs, moved from their original position, which make up the two door posts on which the travertine slab closing the tomb leans. The off centre entrance corridor was seriously damaged during plundering.

The north wall is extremely fragmentary. The large mound of earth and stones was partially built with the use of the natural hillside. It is only marked off by a flat drum built with large "palombino" limestone blocks.

The tomb was repeatedly plundered and the objects belonging to the inhumed occupants, whose number is unknown, were found in small fragments scattered throughout the chamber. A group of pots linked with symposia can be identified. They include a large fragmentary impasto buccheroide kantharos with decorated handles. There are various kinds of figuline clay perfume flasks: ring type, flat bottomed and cylindrical. Fragments of a blue glass perfume flask. whose shape cannot, unfortunately, be reconstructed were also found. There are also a few fragments of a cup imported from Africa. The rim of a lost pot was probably decorated with three (bucchero) "appliques" in the shape of a small duck found in the chamber.

Two impasto spindle whorls and two silver combs suggest that one of the occupants was a woman, while fragments of iron weapon handles and of an iron axe suggest the presence of a man."

The tomb is dated from the end of the 7th century to the mid 6th century BC.


Circle Tomb 7

Etruscan tomb at Lago dell'Accesa, Maremma, Italy
Etruscan tombs at Lago dell'Accesa: Tomb 7

The Parco tematico della civiltà etrusca Area archeologica dell'Accesa information board reads:

"The tomb is part of the Orientalizing period cemetery in District B. It consists of a rectangular trench cut into the clay, in the middle of a circle of talcum phyllite upright slabs. It was probably originally covered by a small mound of earth and stones, part of which collapsed into the trench. the bones of two inhumed occupants (a man and a woman) lay on the travertine slab on the bottom.

Schematic diagram of Etruscan circle tomb 7 at Lago dell'Accesa in MaremmaThe tomb equipment lay at the feet of the deceased, who were probably a married couple. This consisted of coarse, filtered and buccheroide impasto, bucchero type and figuline clay ware on two levels, and sometimes stacked on each other.

Most of this ware, the majority of which came from Vetulonia, is connected with the symposium of banquet, which would lead one to suppose that the occupants were aristocrats. Further evidence of this is the presence of a stone circle round the tomb.

The equipment consisted of a large buccheroide impasto kantharos imitating metal prototypes, with handles decorated with stamped motifs, a scoop, a series of high and low foot cups and bowls, a pyxis with a lid, and two jars. Three filtered impasto bowls came from southern Etruria or Ancient Latium. A figuline skyphos (or cup) may have been imported from Greece. The only metal find from the tomb is a small iron leech-shaped fibula (or brooch), probably used as a clasp for the shroud."

Etruscan pottery and artifacts photo from the Parco tematico della civiltà etrusca Area archeologica dell'Accesa information board for Tomb number 7
Photo of artifacts from the Etruscan tombs at Lago dell'Accesa

The tomb is dated as, "between the third and last quarter of the 7th century BC".


Chamber with Tumulus Tomb 16

Etruscan tombs: rectangular chamber and tumulus tomb 16 at Lago dell'Accesa, Maremma Italy
Etruscan tombs at Lago dell'Accesa: Tomb 16

The Parco tematico della civiltà etrusca Area archeologica dell'Accesa information board reads:

"This tomb has a rectangular chamber of which only two parapets remain, made of large "palombino" limestone blocks (south and eastern walls). The third (northern wall) had largely collapsed inwards. The entrance corridor, on the western side, is off centre and consists of two "palombino" limestone walls diverging outwards.

There are a few traces of a probable funeral bed, made of travertine slabs. Numerous larger slabs presumably belong to the covering. The chamber was covered by a large mound, partly natural and partly man made, marked off at the base by a drum of large "palombino" limestone blocks. The tomb was repeatedly plundered through the ages. This caused damage to the structure and the loss of most of the equipment. Surviving finds lay in the entrance corridor.

The number of inhumed occupants is uncertain. There were probably two, one of whom was certainly male, owing to the presence of an iron spear point, the only metal object found.

Surviving finds consist of: a buccheroide impasto pyxis with a globular knobbed lid, drinking vessels (cups, bowls, kantharos) and a bucchero jar with lid, jugs, figuline clay small cups and (fragmentary) perfume flasks."

The tomb is dated from between the end of the 7th century and the early 6th century BC.


The Etruscan Tombs: more information

For more information about:

  • the Lago dell'Accesa site

  • the Etruscan tombs at the six other nearby archaeological locations of Fosso di Sodacavalli, Campo al Ginepro, Campo Nuovo, Podere Nuovo, Podere del Lago, and Valpiana,

  • and for a location map of the four different "Quartiere" within the Macchia del Monte location where you will find the above Etruscan tombs...

...visit the "Accesa Archaeological Park" pages of the Massa Marittima's System of Museums website (these links will take you to the English version).

You will need this link, however, for the details of each of the 104 tombs. Click on the "Elenco Tombe" and "Necropoli" tags for the menu selections for each (these pages are in Italian only).

Update: since I wrote this, the museum website no longer exists, so I have deleted the links.

The Etruscan artifacts from the site can be seen in the Archaeology Museum in the nearby (7 kilometres) spectacular medieval city of Massa Marittima. The museum is housed in the old Palazzo del Podestà in the historic centre of "old town" Massa Marittima, opposite the "duomo" (cathedral), and the collection occupies the upper two floors of the building.


Etruscan Reference Books



Explore some more...

  • Read more about the freshwater Lago dell'Accesa lake



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