Orvieto - Etruscan Necropolis at Crocifisso del Tufo
The necropolis, which forms a vast archaeological park, is made up of a series of small chamber tombs, aligned along the burial “roads.” The arrangement of the tombs, which follows a definite “town” plan, provides precious elements for the study of the layout of the ancient city. Built from blocks of tuff, the entrance lintels of the tombs are inscribed with the name of the deceased. The earliest excavations in the 19th century yielded important artifacts, now unfortunately dispersed among various foreign museums. Other significant burial objects found during more recent excavations are on display at the Faina Museum in Orvieto.
The necropolis took its name from the 16th-century crucifix sculptured in the tuff and kept in a little chapel underlying the San Giovenale area.
The first reports of finds in the area date back to the end of the 18th century, but more consistent information was found during the years 1830-1831, during the construction of the New Cassian Way. Intense research was conducted, however, in the last thirty years of the 19th century, when a part of the necropolis was expropriated by the State and opened to the public. Research began once more in the 1960s.
The outstanding feature of the necropolis is its layout, with a regular location plan and roads laid out at right angles. The planners divided the area into lots, probably following either an already existing or a planned main road.
Then, in following with the general arrangement of the “town plan” for the necropolis, other roads were built intersecting each other at right angles in a fairly regular manner.
The typical tombs of the necropolis are grouped into blocks, and most of them consist of single, rectangular chambers.
The entrance was closed by a large slab of tuff rock inside, and by a lining of tuff blocks aligned with the external wall; the space between the slab and the wall was filled with earth.
The slab usually rested on the third step descending toward the entrance and closed against the third interior lintel. Given the narrowness of the roads, the placing of two entrances directly across from each other was avoided, so as to prevent mutual obstruction if two facing tombs were to be opened at the same time.
Benches, usually two, were built inside for placing the deceased, one being set against the back wall and one against one of the side walls; the deceased were either interred directly or cremated.
Funerary inscriptions are incised into the entrance lintels, giving the name of the owner of the tomb; they are often written in a possessive style, by which it is the tomb that speaks: I belong to…
In the necropolis there are typically a large number of inscriptions giving the first names and family names of the ancient inhabitants of Orvieto. These are perhaps the most consistent epigraphic testimony of the Archaic age, referring to a single town community.