The topographically and chronologically organized exhibition documents evidence of human occupation in the territory of Sarteano that, despite the grave robbing going on for centuries, has left rich and important traces especially of the Etruscan period, from the 9th to the 1st cent. BC. The visit begins in room 1 with artefacts from the 8th and the 1st half of the 7th century BC found in “pozzetto” graves (well-like cuttings containing a cinerary urn) of Sferracavalli and Poggio Rotondo. The important canopic jar (human-shaped urn) from Macchiapiana with an upturned bowl as a lid was found in a “ziro” grave (the cinerary urn was placed in a “ziro”, i.e. a large clay jar).


The reconstructed chamber tomb in room 2, in which a female canopic jar on a throne stands out, comes from the same necropolis of Macchiapiana. The urn certainly contained the ashes of an upper-class woman, as also demonstrated by the small clay axe model in her hands which was a might symbol in the aristocratic society of the late Orientalizing period (630-620 BC). The important and elegant cippus of “pietra fetida” (i.e. “stink stone”, a sulphur containing stone) from Sant’Angelo in room 3 displays, on its four sides, scenes of an Etruscan funeral ceremony. The finds of the 5th and 4th centuries BC from the Palazzina Necropolis, where was also found a tomb with traces of paintings between 1996-97, consist of rare painted pottery, i.e. red figure, overpainted (such as the elegant stamnos of the Vagnonville Group) and imported Attic ceramics.


The basement of the museum, enlarged and renovated in 2009, is dedicated to the sensational results of the excavations of the Pianacce Necropolis, which began in 2000 and led to the discovery of twenty tombs among which the sensational Tomb of the Infernal Chariot (see the dedicated page). The grave, visitable once a week by appointment, is documented through the reproduction of the wall paintings (realized ​​with a technique that is unique in Italy) and the displayed grave goods consisting of the remains of a bronze hoplite armour and special ceramics. Especially noteworthy are three cups, a red figure and two overpainted ones, of the Clusium Group with scenes of satyrs and maenads of the Sarteano painter and peculiar incense burners decorated with birds and vegetal elements. The remarkable sculptures of “pietra fetida” (i.e. “stink stone”, a sulphur-containing stone) in the other room, from the same Pianacce Necropolis, comprise decorated cippuses (sepulchral square pillars) with unique low reliefs depicting battle scenes and funerary rituals, an extraordinary cinerary urn with the deceased and Vanth and a male cinerary statue. These important examples of sculpture from the 5th century BC, of which we know for the first time the archaeological find context, are exhibited together with beautiful ceramic grave goods consisting of buccheri and imported Attic black and red-figure pottery. In the room dedicated to the Hellenistic period finds of particular value are a gold necklace, a relief-decorated mirror handle of bone and a peculiar Silenus mask of lead, again together with ceramic grave goods varying from simple achromatic amphorae to black-glazed ware and stylish red-figure cups of the Clusium Group.


The visit ends with the beautiful Augustan terracotta reliefs of the Campana type that once decorated a thermal building situated in a locality called Colombaio. They testify to the richness of Sarteano also in this period.

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The Sferracavalli Necropolis is the oldest Etruscan site in the area of Sarteano. A few objects were found dating from the end of the 9th century BC, as well as a great deal of material dating from the 8th century BC (the Late Iron Age) up to the first half of the 7th century BC. Approximately 150 tombs were unearthed between 1875 and 1879 on the property of Marquis Bargagli and part of the artefacts found are displayed here, the rest belong to the Bargagli Collection of the Museum of Siena. They are “pozzetto” or pit tombs, i.e. a vertical hole dug in the ground, lined with pebbles and covered with a stone slab. Inside, biconical urns containing the ashes of the deceased were found. An upturned bowl served as a lid and one handle had been broken for ritual purposes. The grave goods found with the urns consisted of some impasto (unpurified clay) vessels, and personal objects belonging to the deceased such as bronze razors or iron daggers for the men, and necklaces, hair spirals, brooches with bronze heads, and spinning-tools for women, as well as various types of bronze and iron fibulae for fastening or decorating clothing. The absence of luxury items among these standard funerary objects is representative of a society that had not yet diversified, i.e. where dominant aristocratic groups had not yet formed.

The hill of Poggio Rotondo lies beside the village of Castiglioncello del Trinoro and is the highest point of the large Necropolis of Solaia. At the end of the 8th century BC, starting from the top of the hill, over a period of seven centuries the tombs gradually occupied the entire slopes of the hill.
The finds from the tombs exhibited here, ranging in date from the end of the 8th century BC to the first half of the 7th century BC, were discovered in 1951 and are representative of an interesting transitional phase between the Villanovan Period (9th-8th century BC, Iron Age), and the so-called “Orientalizing” period (7th century BC), which in the area of Chiusi is characterized by a slowness in development both with regard to the production of pottery and the organization of the social hierarchy. The oldest tombs are pit tombs like those found at the Sferracavalli Necropolis, while from the beginning of the 7th century BC, a new arrangement becomes predominant: the ash urn is no longer biconical and is placed inside an impasto dolium or “ziro” (large storage jar) which served to protect the ash urn and the grave goods and was covered with a stone slab.
Of special interest is the dagger found in Tomb 2, the only weapon found in these tombs, and the ash urn with a spherical lid found in Tomb 3, a precursor of the canopic type of ash urn.

In the first half of the 19th century, the tombs of the large Solaia necropolis were excavated and ransacked by the landowning Fanelli and Borselli families. Hundreds of artefacts were uncovered, some of which are now in the grand-ducal collection of the Museo Archeologico in Florence.
In August 1951 in an area of the large Solaia Necropolis known as Macchiapiana, archaeologists unearthed a ziro-tomb containing a canopic urn: the head consists of an upturned bowl on which an aquiline nose has been applied, while the eyes are represented simply by two holes punched on either side. Dated circa 660 BC and typical of the kind produced in and around the town of Chiusi, it is obviously a link between the biconical ash urn of the earlier Villanovan Period (9th to 8th century BC) which had a simple bowl for a lid, and the later canopic urns, where the body is symbolized by an olla (globular vase) sometimes featuring handles in the form of arms. By this time the head was cast using a mould and the face and hair were finely detailed, as in the head found at Madonna la Tea and displayed in the next case.
Inside the ziro of the Macchiapiana area, together with the canopic urn, there were grave goods comprising a bowl of the same shape as the one used to cover the ash urn, and two boat-shaped bronze fibulae with herringbone decorations.

In 1964 four tombs dated between the end of the 7th and the beginning of the 6th century BC were unearthed. One contained two impasto amphorae, one of which had handles in the form of snakes, together with some spearheads (no longer in the museum) which marked the tomb as being that of a man. In the fourth tomb a canopic urn with a female head of the evolved type was found together with a few fragments of bucchero ware.


In 1953, in the area of the Solaia Necropolis known as Macchiapiana which was at the height of its prosperity during the late Orientalizing period (630 – 580 BC), archaeologists unearthed a small semicircular chamber tomb with a short entrance corridor, cut into the local limestone. Inside were two canopic ash urns: one with male features, and one with female features placed on a stone throne. Evidence exists to show that, from 630 BC in the Solaia Necropolis and in the Tolle Necropolis (Chianciano) near the pass of La Foce, canopic urns were present not solely in the individual “ziro” type of tomb but also in chamber tombs. However, it is extremely rare to find two or three canopic urns in what are to become the first family tombs.
During this period the social distinctions become more evident and the presence of a canopic urn appertaining to a high ranking female figure in possession of symbols reflecting her high status, together with a smaller male canopic urn placed in a position of secondary importance, make this a particularly interesting find. The female urn (attested by the silver earrings) sits on a throne carved from local stone and almost certainly had in its hands a terracotta model of a two edged axe( the wooden handle is a present-day reconstruction) which in Etruscan society of the late Orientalizing period (630-580 BC) was an unmistakable symbol of authority.
Perhaps the aristocratic woman of Macchiapiana was the widow of a warrior chief who died while fighting elsewhere and consequently was not buried with his family. She may have taken on the leadership of the village temporarily during his absence and she and her son were buried in the same tomb perhaps at a distance of some 20 or so years.
On the right, next to the male-headed canopic vase, a bucchero-ware cup decorated with stamped rosettes and an interesting iron belt buckle were found. The rest of the grave goods had been placed on the left hand side of the chamber and comprised impasto vases and two Etrusco-Corinthian cups.

During the Archaic period (c.575 – 490 BC) the people inhabiting the settlement in the vicinity of the Solaia Necropolis gradually moved to the lower lying areas known as Palazzina and Pianacce, closer to the principal roads leading to Chiusi. In spite of this there is evidence that at this time it was common practice for entire families to be buried in chamber tombs, and that the grave goods often comprised bucchero ware decorated in relief.
The second showcase contains the grave goods discovered in a chamber tomb unearthed in 1948, in the area of Solaia-Mulin Canale, datable in  the second quarter of the 6th century BC, comprising a number of bucchero ware items and two excellent examples of red impasto amphorae, as well as an interesting set of bronze artefacts. The fire-irons and an iron spear, together with a bronze grater, are clearly household implements symbolizing the rank of the deceased, i.e. the male head of the household.
The third showcase contains the grave goods found in Tomb no. 12 of Solaia, investigated between October and November 1996 by the local Archaeological Group. This tomb consists of two chambers, one at the end of the dromos and one on the right, and two niches. Although looted by grave robbers, the tomb nonetheless contained a large number of artefacts: fragments of a black figure Attic cup, bucchero ware vases decorated in relief with the heads of hoplites (foot soldiers) and the so-called Potnia Theron (Mistress of wild beasts), and Etrusco-Corinthian pottery. The tomb was used for about a century, between 580 and 480 BC.
Showcase 4 contains the burial items of a tomb unearthed in the area of Santa Lucia, on the slopes of the Solaia hill. The most interesting grave goods among those found in the tomb (almost certainly an incomplete assemblage), datable to the second half of the 6th century BC, are the locally manufactured amphora with spiral decorations, the bucchero ware dish with the graffiti of the letter “A” and of the number 50, and a bucchero handle with a red painted band.


The local Archaeological Group, during an excavation at the area known as Palazzina, unearthed a necropolis of the 5th century BC with chamber tombs cut into the rock. Although clearly looted, they still contained a number of very precious artefacts. Tomb no. 30, discovered in June 1997, is open to visitors. It comprises a short dromos and a chamber with 5 niches in the walls and contained a complete set of painted funerary pottery produced locally, datable to the end of the 6th and the beginning of the 5th century BC.  This pottery belongs to the later production of black-figure pottery and is closely related to the so-called “Pattern Class” pottery of Orvieto. Of particular interest are two circular foculi (funerary trays) and their accessories. Besides the bucchero ware and plain pottery, the tomb also contained an Attic lekythos, several fragments of a thin sheet of gold, and a small box of which only the bone decorations and feet in the shape of lion paws have survived. Objects of this kind are only found in the tombs of high-ranking persons and are characteristic of a refined social class, indicating that Sarteano was probably an urban centre rather than one of the small villages dependent on the town of Chiusi.

In the Palazzina Necropolis the Archaeological Group made another exceptional discovery: a chamber tomb which, on its right hand wall, above two niches, features the remains of a painting depicting a bearded man and the heads of  four horses above a Doric doorway (perhaps signifying the entrance to Hades), probably a reference to a journey to the Underworld. The painting was made on a thick layer of clay and, although of simple execution, it is similar to paintings produced in Tarquinia at the end of the 6th century BC, with no comparison in the other paintings found in the area of Chiusi. The tomb, although extensively looted, also contained an exceptional set of grave goods including one of the most beautiful examples of Etruscan stamnos, with red figure over painting, unfortunately rather lacunose, attributed to the painter Bonci Casuccini; there were also examples of Attic pottery, bucchero ware, dice made of bone and ivory, some pebbles probably used for playing games, and two imported amphorae: a Samian one, which is rather common among the grave goods of the 5th century BC in the area, and one from Corinth, which is the only example of this imported type found in the area of Chiusi. The pottery preserved in this tomb is datable to the middle and the second half of the 5th century BC

Situated beside tomb 30 and about 50 metres from the Painted Tomb, it has a long slightly sloping dromos and two chambers; one on the left and the other at the end. This last chamber has four niches in the walls. Although the tomb had been looted, some beautiful painted Etruscan ceramics were found. Of note are two locally produced red figure bell shaped craters and two skyphoi, one with an athlete and a cloaked figure and the other with black floral decoration of Tarquinian production.
Extremely worthy of note is the bronze plaque which decorated the lower part of a handle of a jug. This shows a figure seated on a construction made from blocks, intent on observing the sky. This is the representation of an aruspice (priest) who foresees divine approval or disapproval by observing the flight of birds. Also present are small pieces of bone, all that remain of the inlaid decoration of a piece of wooden furniture.
A woman would have been buried in the left chamber; the mirror, the spindle whorl and a distaff used for spinning thread are all traditional female grave goods.
Dateable between the 4th & the 3rd century BC, the structure is more recent than the previous tombs and in fact it does not contain any bucchero ware which has been replaced by an assemblage of miniature grave goods made of achromatic ceramics and black painted ware.

Stone cippus datable to the end of the 6th century BC, used as a funerary marker for a tomb in the area of Sant’Angelo. It is one of the most significant examples of this type of object and depicts scenes of a Prothesis (the exposure of the deceased person), a funeral cortege, ritual dances and horsemen.


Throughout the Archaic and Classical periods the Solaia Necropolis was partially abandoned. During the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, in particular in the area known as Mulin Canale, numerous new settlements began to develop in the area around Sarteano following a trend typical of the Hellenistic period. In the 19th century as well as in the 50’s and 60’s of the last century, tombs dating from the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC were uncovered. Unfortunately we know nothing of the circumstances of their discovery. In 1996 – 97 however, the local Gruppo Archeologico Etruria discovered four more tombs. These are open to the public and their structure makes them of special interest.  One in particular has a long corridor with a series of 39 small niches along the sides, undoubtedly a tomb of the lower classes, similar to the Roman columbaria.
Worthy of note are some grave goods from an earlier excavation; some jugs and small bronze flasks as well as a fine situla (container for liquid) with a spout in the form of the head of a satyr, plus two travertine cinerary urns with the names of the deceased recorded on them: Arista and Lar(th) Cezrtle Vipinal. A man and a woman as can be seen by the presence among the grave goods of a comb, a typically feminine toiletry item, and an iron strigil, a skin scraper used to remove dirt and sweat from the body.



The life-size reconstruction of the Tomb of the Infernal Chariot in this room constitutes a unique realization in Italy. Photographs of the four painted scenes of the tomb were printed on large panels of polystyrene covered with plaster, combining the spectacularity of the theatrical scenes with the philological reading of the images. The reproduction of the cracks, holes and irregularities of the tomb in the polystyrene was made by hand and resulted in a very realistic effect.

The exceptional discovery of the tomb of the “Chariot from the Underworld” in October 2003, during annual excavations in the monumental necropolis of Pianacce approximately one kilometre from the centre of Sarteano, is undoubtedly one of the most significant discoveries of Etruscology in the last decades.
The tomb, situated at a depth of five metres, is cut into travertine rock and has a twenty meter long dromos (entrance passage). It is decorated with a series of wall paintings noteworthy for the uniqueness of the scenes and for the excellent state of conservation of the colours. The Quadriga (chariot) is drawn by two lions and two griffons and steered by a demon who probably represents an innovative figure of the Etruscan demon Charun, the equivalent of Charon the Greek boatman of the dead who escorted souls to the underworld.
The two male figures reclining on a dining couch in the underworld and expressing great tenderness for each other in their gestures, are probably father and son, the different skin colour indicating the difference in age. Beside them is a servant holding a colum (strainer) used to filter wine.  Beneath the two scenes is a frieze showing dolphins diving through waves symbolising the moment of passing through to the underworld.
The three headed serpent on the wall of the rear chamber represents one of the many monsters which populated the underworld in the Etruscan funerary imagery of the time. Another frequently depicted monster is the hippocampus on the end wall. Below the hippocampus stands an imposing sarcophagus in grey alabaster. Discovered in pieces, it has since been restored, and shows the deceased reclining against two cushions.

Evidence was found of at least two burials in the tomb, one in the large sarcophagus of the pater familias and one in a wooden chest of which only the bronze nails have survived.
The grave goods discovered were in fragments and have been carefully restored. They include three fine red-figure cups, two produced by the so called “Officina Senese” workshop and one by the “Gruppo Clusium”, as well as other black painted, grey and unpainted ceramics, amphorae, thymateria (incense burners) decorated with small terracotta birds, some glass paste game pieces and  what would seem to be a treasure trove of bronze artefacts from various periods.
There is also evidence that the tomb was inhabited in the high mediaeval period, during which time the whole of the right hand side of the tomb was devastated.
The styles of the paintings and the grave goods indicate that the first burial took place sometime in the decades before and after 320 BC, while the second took place no later than the beginning of the 3rd century BC The style of the paintings tells us that the artists who worked on behalf of the aristocratic family who owned the tomb, came from Orvieto and had worked in the Settecamini necropolis.
Other monumental structures in the Pianacce necropolis (which was in use from the second half of the 6th to the 2nd century BC) are open to the public. Like the tomb of the “Quadriga Infernale” they were cut into the travertine rock and their size confirms the wealth of the families established in and around Sarteano between the late Classic and the early Hellenistic period. Thanks to its extraordinarily beautiful location and taking into account the recent exceptional discoveries, this burial ground is without doubt one of the most significant archaeological sites in Northern Etruria.


There are seven more monumental tombs cut into the travertine rock in the vicinity of the tomb of the Chariot from the Underworld. Dated between the 4th and 2nd centuries BC, they must have belonged to aristocratic and wealthy families, confirming once again that Sarteano and the surrounding territory were densely populated not by small rural settlements, but by cultured people on a level with those inhabiting the towns. Evidence of this can be seen in finely crafted objects such as the gold necklace or the carved handle of the ritual staff from tomb no. 8, or the extremely rare lead mask showing a satyr from tomb no. 12 which must have decorated the roof-shaped stone lid of a sarcophagus. It was in this group of tombs that the largest number of red-figure cups from the workshop of the “Gruppo Clusium” was found. Produced locally around 340-320 BC, they show scenes linked to wine and the worship of Dionysos (Bacchus) with satyrs and maenads in attendance.
With the exception of tomb no. 1 investigated in 1954 by Guglielmo Maetzke, these tombs were all uncovered between 2003 and 2005 during digs conducted by the museum. The artefacts found were restored in the museum’s laboratory.


In the Pianacce necropolis, the tombs containing simple grave goods in small chambers, are evidence of the first phase of settlement in the second half of the 6th century BC Tombs no. 13 and 14 uncovered in 2006, more complex and with numerous niches cut into the walls, are of particular interest. Adjacent and connected to each other in ancient times, they contained the largest number of Attic ceramics ever found in the area around Sarteano as well as the greatest number of artefacts made from pietra fetida to have been found in recent times. Pietra fetida or stinkstone (a local limestone smelling strongly of sulphur when scratched or rubbed) is soft and easy to carve. Between the end of the 6th and the first half of the 5th century BC, it was used in the area around Chiusi to make carved cippus (grave markers) and the rare cinerary statues which contained the ashes of the deceased. In tomb no. 13 an extraordinary sculpture was found showing the deceased reclining close to Vanth (a female demon of the underworld). The work shows signs of the influence of the Greek sculptor Phidias and is similar to one found in Chianciano in the area known as Pedata. Tomb no. 14 contained the statue of a male figure representing the deceased, datable between the end of the 5th and the beginning of the 4th century BC Finds included the extraordinary grave markers showing scenes of the exposure of the deceased person, banquets, horseback combat and funeral processions; cinerary statues; splendid Attic pottery both black-figure (end 6th beginning 5th century BC) and red-figure (5th century BC); Etruscan red-figure and over-painted pottery (end of 5th to 4th century BC). All these finds render these two tombs - open to the public – of particular importance and confirm that aristocratic families inhabited the area continuously throughout the 5th and 4th centuries BC.  


The six architectural terracotta reliefs of the Campana type were part of a frieze that decorated the upper part, inside or outside, of a building of the Augustan age. It may have been a private or public building but not with a sacred destination. The production of these reliefs, rather standardized, began in the 1st cent. BC, culminated in the Augustan period and lasted until the Antonine age. The four largest were discovered in 1871 in the locality Colombaio where the presence of walls in opus reticulatum and travertine thresholds induced the discoverer, Gian Francesco Gamurrini to interpret the structures as the remains of a thermal building. The two quadrangular ones depict Aphrodite in conversation with the young Eros next to a greyhound. The rectangular ones show a naked Adonis, with only a cloak over his shoulder, leaning against a spear and a small pillar in conversation with Peitho, the Greek goddess of Persuasion. The other two reliefs, with satyrs which drink from a large crater, come from an unknown location in the territory of Sarteano.

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