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The Etruscan Winged Horses

While visiting the northern area of Lazio, home of the Etruscans, we came across some amazing archaeological finds. The first was the great Necropolis Etrusca del Cerveteri, which is the largest ancient necropolis in the Mediterranean area. This huge Etruscan burial ground covering 400 hectares dates from the 9th Century BC and was used over the next three hundred years to bury the dead. Some of you might be thinking this was rather a macabre place to visit but in fact it was extremely interesting. Much of what we know about Etruscan life has been learnt from the decorative details and finds from the tombs. The round tombs (tumuli) were carved out of the local rock and represented a house for the dead including stone beds. I was able to persuade Beniamino to lie on one but he didn’t stay there long!

My favourite Etruscan find, however, was located in the National Etruscan Museum in Tarquinia, a major Etruscan settlement close to the Mediterranean Coast. I had read about the architectural plate known as the Winged Horses but nothing prepared me for the stunning piece of sculpture beautifully displayed in the Gallery. The plate, dating from the early 4th Century BC came from the Ara della Regina (The Altar of the Queen) which is the greatest known Etruscan temple situated on a plateau overlooking the town. The plate was fastened to the head of one of the beams supporting the roof of the temple. The winged horses were yoked to a chariot and portrayed as they are about to take off into the heavens. Absolutely stunning. The Museum itself deserves a lengthy visit as there is much to see and enjoy there.

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