Monday, September 24, 2012
Carved into the rock of the tufa plateau –a sedimentary area that is a result of volcanic activity — on which the city stands, the subterranean structures were largely filled. Only the top-most modern layer was visible.
“Within this upper section, which had been modified in modern times and was used as a wine cellar, we noticed a series of ancient stairs carved into the wall. They were clearly of Etruscan construction,” David B. George of the Department of Classics at Saint Anselm, told.
After going through a mid-20th century floor, George and Bizzarri reached a medieval floor. Immediately beneath this floor, they found a layer of fill that contained various artifacts such as Attic red figure pottery from the middle of the 5th Century B.C., 6th and 5th century B.C. Etruscan pottery with inscriptions as well as various objects that dated to before 1000 B.C.
Digging through this layer, the archaeologists found 5 feet of gray sterile fill, which was intentionally deposited from a hole in the top of the structure.
“Below that material there was a brown layer that we are currently excavating. Intriguingly, the stone carved stairs run down the wall as we continue digging. We still don’t know where they are going to take us,” Bizzarri told Discovery News.
The material from the deepest level reached so far (the archaeologists have pushed down about 10 feet) dates to around the middle of the fifth century B.C.
“At this level we found a tunnel running to another pyramidal structure and dating from before the 5th century B.C. which adds to the mystery,” George said.
Indeed, the Etruscans have long been considered one of antiquity’s greatest enigmas.
A fun-loving and eclectic people who among other things taught the French how to make wine, the Romans how to build roads, and introduced the art of writing to Europe, the Etruscans began to flourish in Etruria (an area in central Italy area that covered now are Tuscany, Latium, Emilia-Romagna and Umbria) around 900 B.C., and then dominated much of the country for five centuries.
Known for their art, agriculture, fine metalworking and commerce, they started to decline during the fifth century B.C., as the Romans grew in power. By 300-100 B.C., they eventually became absorbed into the Roman empire.
Their puzzling, non-Indo-European language was virtually extinguished and they left no literature to document their society. Indeed, much of what we know about them comes from their cemeteries: only the richly decorated tombs they left behind have provided clues to fully reconstruct their history.
The subterranean pyramids in Orvieto could offer a unique insight into this civilization as the structures appear to be unique.
“The caves have indeed a shape unknown elsewhere in Etruria,” Larissa Bonfante, professor emerita of classics at New York University and a leading expert on the ancient Etruscans, told Discovery News.
According to Bizzarri, there are at least five Etruscan pyramids under the city. Three of these structures have yet to be excavated.
“Clearly, they are not quarries or cisterns. I would say that there is nothing like these structures on record anywhere in Italy,” Bizzarri said.
According to George, the underground pyramids could represent some sort of a religious structure or a tomb. In both cases, it would be a discovery without precedent.
“Most likely, the answer waits at the bottom. The problem is we don’t really know how much we have to dig to get down there,” Bizzarri said.
A group of Italian and American archaeologists discovered unique underground pyramid in the town of Orvieto, Italy, says Utro.ru. The constructions carved in volcanic limestone rock were found underneath a wine cellar of a residential house. All lower constructions were completely buried under the ground.Article source:
“Within this upper section, which had been modified in modern times and was used as a wine cellar, we noticed a series of ancient stairs carved into the wall. They were clearly of Etruscan construction,” David B. George of the Department of Classics at Saint Anselm said.
During excavations, the scientists discovered that the buildings had a pyramidal shape. In addition, several tunnels were found going far deeper into the cellar.
The scientists believe that the construction was erected by Etruscans – the tribes that populated the north-west of the Italian Peninsula in the I Millennium BC. According to sources, during the VI-IV centuries BC, the town of Orvieto was a culturally and economically developed Etruscan city. Afterwards, the city came under the influence of Rome, until it was finally conquered in 264 BC, Vesti.ru reports.
People have always lived in this place before. The wine cellar from the middle of the XX century hides the medieval layer underneath. Artifacts of the antique period were found under the cellar: fragments of ancient utensils dating back to the first millennium, as well as Etruscan pottery of the V century BC, the Russian World says.
However, underground tunnels that connect the carved pyramids became the most curious finding. Although archaeologists have only begun to explore the unusual discovery, they make early assumptions of how it could be used. “We are convinced that this is neither a mine nor a reservoir. The finishing of the walls proves the first, while the absence of dirt deposits proves the second assumption. – David George said. – So the construction could be used for religious purposes, but it could also be a tomb,” the researcher said. According to the scientist, both versions raise great interest with historians, because nothing like that has ever been found in Italy before.
Etruscan tribes are one of the biggest mysteries of antiquity for the scientists. Living on the territory of ancient Italy, they created a well-developed culture, which exerted great influence on the Roman civilization. The Romans borrowed engineering art from the Etruscans, a part of religious ceremonies and even gladiator fights.
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