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24 bronze, ancient Roman statues found in San Casciano dei Bagni, Tuscany

Published: 10/11/2022 By The Abode Team

A treasure trove of 24, bronze, ancient Roman statues has been found in the Tuscan town of San Casciano dei Bagni, in the province of Siena.

The artefacts, estimated to be 2,300 years old, were reportedly in a near perfect state of preservation due to having been buried in a mixture of mud and thermo-mineral spring water typical to the area. Along with the statues, more than five thousand gold, silver and bronze coins were uncovered, many of them having inscriptions in Etruscan and Latin.

Excavation works at the Etruscan-Roman shrine have been ongoing since 2019. Archaeologist and professor at Siena’s University for Foreigners, Jacopo Tabolli, who led the dig with a grant from Italy’s Ministry of Culture and funding from the town’s council, said that the find was absolutely unique and is a discovery that will rewrite history.

It is believed that the site where the objects were found was an active place of worship between the third and fifth centuries and was later closed in Christian times. However, instead of being destroyed, the temple is thought to have been sealed and the votive statues buried – which is why they were discovered in such an intact state. Among the votive objects retrieved from the sacred site were a statue of Apollo, as well as Hygieia, the goddess of health, with a snake coiled around her arm, and various other divinities and emperors. The discovery has been compared to that of the ‘Riace bronzes’ – two life size Greek bronze statues that were found just off the shore in the Calabrian seaside town of Riace in 1972. Massimo Osanna, head of Museums at Italy’s Ministry of Culture, said the latest find was “the most important discovery since the Bronze Statues of Riace and certainly one of the most significant bronze finds ever made in the history of the ancient Mediterranean.”

The Tuscan site is the largest depository of Etruscan and Roman age bronze statues ever to be discovered in Italy and is one of the most important in the whole of the Mediterranean. To date, terracotta was the main material for statues found dating back to this time. “This is an exceptional find, which yet again confirms Italy as a country of immense and unique treasures,” commented Gennaro Sangiuliano, the country’s new culture minister, on one of his first visits outside Rome to the Central Restoration Institute in Grosseto, where initial studies are being conducted on the bronzes.

The discovery also sheds new light on the interaction between Etruscan and Roman societies, showing that the Etruscan language survived for longer than had been believed.  Even in historical times in which there were serious conflicts it appears that the Etruscan and Roman worlds appear to have co-existed in worship.

It has been announced that the Ministry of Culture is funding a new museum to house the artifacts in a sixteenth-century building in San Casciano.