The region which lies between lower Tuscany and Rome, known as Etruria, land of the Etruscans, is a land of immense wealth for the archeologist, not only due to the important evidence left by the Etruscans, but also to that of prehistoric times and more recently, the Roman period.
Amongst the peoples of ancient Italy, the Etruscans were distinguished for their role of excellence, held in the art of design and decoration and the art of progress, from all perspectives;
From an urban perspective (during the Etruscan period, tiny villages of the iron age were transformed into cities endowed with streets, canals and comfortable residences);
Economically (trade flourished both on land and at sea, while in the agricultural field, grain cultivation, olive cultivation and viniculture were introduced);
Artistically (inscriptions in the Etruscan language, monumental tombs were constructed in ways which portrayed their richness);
Politically (the monarchist institution underwent a period of crisis, thus paving the way for the new Elective Magistracy).
Cities like Tuscania, Tarquinia, Vulci and Cerveteri flourished owing to the shipping business, while away from the coast, Orvieto and Chiusi developed as thriving agricultural centres.
Archeological research conducted since the year 1800 has revealed numerous necropoles located in suburban areas, while Etruscan townships have remained a mystery even today. The Etruscan centre of Acquarossa is a rare exception, although a lot more is known about its burial rites than its way of life.
Etruscan tombs were outfitted as an authentic reconstruction of the deceased's residence; personal items were placed inside the tomb to allow the deceased to continue his life after death.
The etruscan paintings at Tarquinia
At Tarquinia, almost all of the splendid paintings which decorated the walls of the burial chambre. Today, some of them are still in a good state of preservation and constitute one of the largest complexes of ancient painting to have survived anywhere. This is even more important and significant if we consider the very few extant examples of contemporary Greek painting.
What strikes the observer first of all is the sheer brightness of the colours, revealing how carefully the painters distinguished between male figures, always depicted in red, and female figures, when they used white; and then, the sheer diversity of the subjects depicted.
In the earlier period, decorative elements such as animals and flower motifs, with joyful scenes associated with banquets, musicians and dancers, erotic games, horse races, and hunting scenes. Only later on does the Hellenizing concept of the after-life enter the paintings, now filled with sadi painful funeral processions and demons from the Underworld.