Italy celebrates ‘exceptional’ discovery of ancient bronze statues in Tuscany

written by ReutersRome, Italy

Archaeologists in Italy have discovered more than two dozen beautifully preserved bronze statues dating back to ancient Roman times in thermal baths in Tuscany, in what experts are calling a sensational find.

The statues were discovered in San Casciano dei Bagni, a hilltop town in the province of Siena, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Rome, where archaeologists have been exploring the muddy ruins of an ancient bathroom since 2019.

“It’s a very significant and exceptional find,” Jacopo Tabolli, an assistant professor at the University for Foreigners of Siena who is coordinating the dig, told Reuters on Tuesday.

Massimo Osanna, a senior official at the culture ministry, called it one of the most remarkable discoveries “in the history of the ancient Mediterranean” and the most important since the Riace Bronzes, a giant pair of ancient Greek warriors, they were pulled out of the sea on the seashore. Italy in 1972.

A newly discovered 2,300-year-old bronze statue lies on the ground in San Casciano dei Bagni, Italy.

A newly discovered 2,300-year-old bronze statue lies on the ground in San Casciano dei Bagni, Italy. Credit: Ministry of Culture/Reuters

Tabolli said the statues, representing Hygieia, Apollo and other Greco-Roman deities, used to adorn a sanctuary before being immersed in thermal waters, in some kind of ritual, “probably around the 1st century AD”.

“You give to the water because you expect the water to give you something back,” he said of the ritual.

Time of conflict

Most of the statues date from the 2nd century BC to the 1st century AD, a period of “great transformation in ancient Tuscany” as it moved from Etruscan to Roman rule, the Ministry of Culture said in a statement.

It was a “time of great conflict” and “cultural osmosis”, in which the great sanctuary of the San Casciano baths represented a “single multicultural and multilingual paradise of peace, surrounded by political instability and war”, the ministry said .

A newly discovered 2,300-year-old bronze statue lies on the ground in San Casciano dei Bagni, Italy.

A newly discovered 2,300-year-old bronze statue lies on the ground in San Casciano dei Bagni, Italy. Credit: Ministry of Culture/Reuters

The statues were covered by nearly 6,000 bronze, silver and gold coins, and the hot, muddy waters of San Casciano helped preserve them “almost like the day they were submerged,” Tabolli said.

The archaeologist said his team had recovered 24 large statues, plus several smaller statuettes, noting that it was unusual that they were made of bronze, rather than terracotta.

Tabolli said this suggests they came from what he called an elite settlement, where archaeologists also found “wonderful inscriptions in Etruscan and Latin”, mentioning the names of powerful local families, the ministry statement added.

According to Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano, the “exceptional discovery…confirms once again that Italy is a country of immense and unique treasures.”

The ministry said the statues have been taken to a restoration laboratory in nearby Grosseto, but will eventually be displayed in a new museum in San Casciano.

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