The Etruscan capital

In 2004, the Necropolis was declared to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it hosts an exceptional monumental cycle of painted tombs described as “the first chapter in the history of great Italian painting”. It is the largest necropolis in the area around the ancient Etruscan city of Tarquinia, comprising more than 6,000 underground Etruscan tombs that completely cover the extensive hill of Monterozzi. Adorned with scenes of human life that include huntsmen, fishermen, musicians, dancers, jugglers and athletes, the painted tombs illustrate the wealth and power of the occupants for whom they were built: they are a fitting symbol of their high social status.

Etruscan painting is all the more important because we have lost all trace of Greek painting: we can only imagine how it may have looked by studying the decorations in some of the exceptional tombs in Tarquinia, where experts have theorised that they see the hand of Greek artists who were attracted to Italy to decorate the last resting places of wealthy Etruscans.

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