Extraordinary new bronze statues discovered at sanctuary in San Casciano dei Bagni, Italy.
During the excavation campaign at the Etruscan-Roman sanctuary connected to the ancient sacred pool of the Bagno Grande thermo-mineral spring in San Casciano Dei Bagni, Siena, more than 20 bronze statues in perfect condition, votive offerings, and other objects, as well as five thousand gold, silver, and bronze coins, were discovered. The excavation, which began in 2019 and was sponsored by the Ministry of Culture and the Tuscan municipality and was coordinated by Prof. Jacopo Tabolli of the University for Foreigners of Siena, resulted in these extraordinary discoveries in the first weeks of October. The finds will be housed in a new museum in San Casciano, thanks to recent MiC funding.
“A discovery that will rewrite history and on which more than 60 experts from all over the world are already working,” says Prof. Jacopo Tabolli, the Etruscologist in charge of the excavation. This is how, 50 years after the famous “Riace bronzes” were discovered in 1972, the history of Etruscan and Roman bronze statuary is being rewritten in San Casciano Dei Bagni. The Tuscan site has the largest deposit of bronze statues from the Etruscan and Roman eras ever discovered in ancient Italy, and one of the most significant in the entire Mediterranean: unparalleled, especially given those terracotta statues were the only ones known until now.”
The St. Casciano bronzes depict the deities worshiped at the sacred site, as well as the organs and anatomical parts for which the deity’s curative intervention was sought through the thermal waters. Effigies of Hygieia and Apollo, as well as a bronze resembling the famous Arringatore, discovered in Perugia and the historical collections of the National Archaeological Museum in Florence, have recently re-emerged from the hot mud.
The exceptional preservation of the statues within the hot spring water has also allowed for the preservation of wonderful inscriptions in Etruscan and Latin that were engraved before they were made. The inscriptions include the names of powerful Etruscan families from the territory of inner Etruria, ranging from Perugia’s Velimna to the Marcni of the Sienese countryside. In addition to onomastics and dedicatory forms in Etruscan, there are Latin inscriptions that mention the aquae calidae, the hot springs of the Bagno Grande, where the statues were placed.
The majority of these antiquity masterpieces date from the second century B.C. to the first century A.D., a historical period of significant transformations in ancient Tuscany during the transition between Etruscans and Romans. In this era of great conflicts between Rome and the Etruscan cities, but also of struggles within the social fabric of the Urbe, the noble Etruscan families dedicated statues to sacred water in the sanctuary of the Bagno Grande, at a time when Rome’s expansion also meant cultural osmosis. A one-of-a-kind multicultural and multilingual peace context surrounded by political instability and war.
“A remarkable find that demonstrates once again that Italy is a land of immense and unique treasures. The blending of various civilizations is unique to Italian culture “says Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano, who was in Grosseto yesterday on one of his first visits outside Rome to the Central Institute for Restoration laboratory, where study activities and the first interventions on the bronzes are underway. “I’d like to personally congratulate the archaeologists and research team,” the minister said at the end. “The study and enhancement of this treasure will be a further opportunity for the spiritual growth of our culture and the revitalization of lesser-known territories to international tourism, but it will also serve as a driving force for the nation’s cultural industry,” says the president. It is the most important discovery since the Riace Bronzes, and certainly one of the most significant bronze finds ever in the history of the ancient Mediterranean,” says Massimo Osanna, Director General of Museums, who has just approved the purchase of the 16th-century palace that will house the wonders returned from Bagno Grande in the village of San Casciano, a museum to which a real archaeological park will be added in the future.”
“It is the most important discovery since the Riace Bronzes, and certainly one of the most significant bronze finds ever in the history of the ancient Mediterranean,” says Massimo Osanna, Director General of Museums, who has just approved the purchase of the 16th-century palace that will house the wonders returned from Bagno Grande in the village of San Casciano, a museum to which a real archaeological park will be added in the future.”
“This discovery provides San Casciano with an opportunity that is not only cultural and touristic, but also a genuine chance for rebirth,” says Agnese Carletti, mayor of the Tuscan municipality. “In San Casciano, a new museum and archaeological park will be built to house the exceptional statues. Two new locations will be a real development engine for the area, adding to the already exciting presence of young archaeologists from all over the world who, thanks to this excavation, are now repopulating the town for many months of the year.”
“The sanctuary with its statues appears to be a research laboratory on cultural diversity in antiquity, a unique testimony to Etruscan and Roman mobility,” explains Prof. Jacopo Tabolli, an Etruscologist at the University for Foreigners in Siena and the scientific project’s director. “In comparison to well-known discoveries of ancient bronze alloy statues—think, for example, of the famous Arringatore discovered in Perugia and exhibited at the National Archaeological Museum in Florence—what has re-emerged from the mud at San Casciano dei Bagni is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rewrite the history of ancient art and, with it, the history of the passage between the Etruscans and Romans in Tuscany”.
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