- Learn about the Etruscan people, the first great rulers of central Italy from around 800 to 100 BCE, through the gems, statues, weaponry, jewelry, and terracotta vessels they left behind.
- Get a glimpse inside Etruscan tombs and find out how archaeologists interpret funerary (the goods found inside tombs) to learn more about this society.
- Hear the unusual sounds of the Etruscan language—no longer in existence today—and see Etruscan writing on personal belongings and burial containers in the Gallery.
- Discover more of the Classical World in the adjacent Rome Gallery and Greece Gallery.
The Etruscans dominated the central part of what we know today as Italy during the late 8th through 6th centuries BCE. Their economy was based on trade with Phoenicians, Greeks, Italic tribes, and Europe, as shown in valuable artifacts displayed in the Gallery. In fact, the best and most intact Greek pottery in the Greece Gallery was found in Etruscan tombs.) They were influential in turning Rome into an urban center and the early Roman dynasty, the Tarquins, were from an Etruscan family.
The Etruscan civilization was eventually eclipsed by the Romans and is not well known today, but their technology, religion, and many of their customs were incorporated into Roman traditions and still endure today. The Gallery explores Etruscans’ contributions to Roman (and modern) culture, such as “Roman” numerals and the “Latin” alphabet, religious rituals, concepts of city planning, and tiled roofs. It also shows Etruscans’ highly technical skills through the weaponry, pottery, and intricate gold jewelry they produced.
The Museum’s collection spans all of Etruscan culture, from the 8th century BCE to its final days in the 1st century BCE. Much of the material on display was excavated for the Museum in the late 19th century at sites such as Narce, Vulci, Musarna, and Orvieto.
Bronze Crested Helmet
Around 700 BCE, a warrior was buried in a tomb at Narce, in central Italy, with his weapons and armor, vases, razors, and horse fittings. He was Faliscan—of a people of Italic origin who were neighbors and allies of the Etruscans. His crested bronze helmet of Etruscan design proclaims him a member of the ruling class, and his poncho-cuirass is one of a kind. A pair of bronze bits symbolize his special status as owner of a chariot, although his horses were too valuable to sacrifice.
This terracotta sculpture of a female head would have been attached to the roof tiles of an Etruscan temple ofthe 4th century BCE. Etruscan architecture in wood and unfired brick perfected the design and decoration of the tiled roof, borrowed from Greek Corinth and later adopted by the Romans.
Rare Etruscan writing can be seen in the inscription of this alabaster urn of the 3rd century BCE, from the region of Chiusi, where the Etruscans cremated their dead and deposited the ashes in urns like this one. “Arnth Remzna son of Arnth” is shown wearing the spiked hat of a haruspex, a priest skilled in interpreting the livers of sacrificial animals.