Sunday, June 9, 2013

UNESCO World Heritage site of Cerveteri

two colors of tufa for this  tomb  
Last week  we invited  young American archeologists  Tim and Erika  to describe their visit to  Tarquinia, one of the area’s  two UNESCO  World Heritage  sites. 
beehive shaped  funerary mounds 
The other is   Cerveteri, further south in the province of Rome,  which I visited  this week for the first time  in over  40 years, when it was  a favorite field trip for  my  international school students  back  in  the  60s and 70s . I hope  some of them who read this will  leave a comment, here below. 

entrance  drive to Banditaccia necropolis 

carved rings   decorate the tomb mounds 

my book on the area is available at the bookshop

cart ruts   dating from  300 BC

columns  with  carbon inclusions 

path among  the tombs 

Not much has changed  at the Banditaccia necropolis  since that time,  only the  majestic pines   which flank  the entrance drive  have grown and their roots have made  the  road  bumpier , but  visitors are even  more welcome thanks to the new   snack bar and  bookshop.
Isabella at the snack bar 
taking a break at the snack bar 

When  I visited  with student groups years ago  a packed lunch  was imperative and  we had to be sure to bring our own flashlights   in order  to see anything in the dark tombs.

Another change is that the Tomb  of the Reliefs , the most important,  is now  sealed off  with a glass door, like Tarquinia’s painted tombs, for protection. 
walking among  the tomb mounds 

dromos  entrance  to tombs
Tomb of the Reliefs 
below the tree, the Tomb of the Reliefs
The atmosphere felt in the necropolis  is still  awe inspiring,  mysterious and lush.  
This “City of the Dead” is a  peek into how the Etruscans  lived, what they found important and   how they perceived life after death.
closeup  of the  tufa stone blocks 

The   tombs, excavated in  tufa  stone, have   rooms  and funerary beds  to  recreate what the Etruscan homes looked like.

Outside the dromos  entrance way there are often  phallic symbols or cippi  for male occupants, or  house shaped   cippi  for female burials. 
Have you visited  either Tarquinia or Cerveteri ?  Which is your favorite Etruscan site? 


  1. Looks lovely. We did Tarquinia recently but Cerveteri is still on the to-do list!

  2. Another thing about Cerveteri that has changed is the urban sprawl on the way into the town. It has grown enormously in the past 40 years. D.H. Lawrence would not recognize it.