The Cai Cutu Etruscan tomb
The tomb was reconstructed in a basement room, with the burial objects set in their original position. This arrangement is particularly effective for giving a complete picture of the type of burial. The inscriptions on the fifty urns show the transition from the use of the Etruscan language to Latin.
In December 1983 an inviolate Etruscan tomb was discovered in Perugia when a gardener caused part of the roof of the vestibule to collapse while hoeing a garden.The tomb has a cross-shaped plan, and consists of a larger chamber serving as a vestibule, which was reached by an unroofed corridor (dromos) closed off by a large slab of travertine found still in place, along with three cells opening on the three sides of the vestibule.
Untouched until its discovery, the tomb had been used for a long period of time between the 3rd and 1st century BC. It contained fifty cinerary urns made from Perugian travertine (two of which plastered with stucco) and one sandstone sarcophagus, placed along the rear wall of the central chamber, which is the oldest deposition in the tomb. The sarcophagus contains the remains of an interred person, but has no inscription of the deceased’s name. During the Archaic Age in Perugia, the rite of interment was most prevalent, whereas during the Hellenistic Age, starting in the 3rd century BC, cremation of the deceased became the norm. The deceased person’s name is inscribed on the box or lid of almost all of the urns, which all belong to the members of a single family, the cai cutu.
All of the inscribed urns have name formulas pertaining to men only. The name formula consists of a first name, family name, and very often the patronymic (father’s) name and quite frequently also the matronymic (mother’s) name, followed by the term clan (son).
The oldest persons, buried first in the tomb, have a family name composed of two elements (cai cutu), which denotes a servile origin of the founder of the family. Over time the succeeding members of the family group eliminated the name cai from the name formula, keeping only the name cutu. On the more recent urns, dating from after 89 BC, i.e. after the granting of Roman citizenship, the name inscription is Latin: the Etruscan family name cutu is Latinized into Cutius. One of the urns mentions also the Tromentina tribe, to which the inhabitants of Perugia were attributed. Thus in this tomb the passage from Etruscan to Latin can be seen. The most significant urns are those which were first placed in the tomb, covered with stucco. These, and particularly the one with the deceased portrayed semi-reclined on the lid, are linked to the workshop that produced the urns of the velimna family (Volumni in Latin) from the well-known Volumni Hypogeum in Perugia.
The other urns are from the more recent Hellenistic production in Perugia. They are decorated on the front with motifs of varying complexity: a banquet scene, a battle scene, a Centauromachy, simple rosette patterns. The tomb also held a bronze kottabos and the remains of a panoplia (i.e. complete set of armor) found on the floor in the left chamber: a bronze shield, a single shin guard, a large iron sword, and two bronze cheek-pieces from a helmet.
Due to the very poor state of preservation of the tomb, which is dug into the earth, it was not possible to set up a display of the materials in the tomb itself. Therefore it was decided to show the burial objects in the National Archeological Museum of Perugia, reproducing the tomb and the way the materials were arranged inside it. This allows the visitor to get an immediate impression of the construction and stratification of the items placed in the tomb over a period of two centuries.