Key to Umbria: Orvieto

Necropolis of Crocifisso del Tufo 

(8th - 3rd centuries BC) 

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This necropolis below Orvieto, which is named for the nearby  Cappella di Crocifisso del Tufo, was first excavated after extensive signs of it were discovered during the construction of the nearby  via Cassia Nuova in 1830-1.  It was extensively excavated in the latter part of the 19th century, notably by Domenico Golini, Riccardo Mancini and Gian Francesco Gamurrini.  More systematic excavations were carried out in six campaigns in 1960-8.  The most recent excavation were carried out in 1982-3.

This is the largest of the necropoles that served Etruscan Orvieto and contains more than a hundred rectangular tombs made from tufa blocks.  Over 90 families were buried here in a manner that indicates a relatively egalitarian society at this time.  Their tombs are laid out in well-planned city of the dead.  The names inscribed on the lintels of the tombs indicate that men were almost always the heads of the households, although six female names survive.  Many of the people buried here were of non-Etruscan descent, indicating that Orvieto was an important centre of trade and communication.  It was used over many centuries up to the destruction of Volsinii in 264 BC, but was at its height in the 6th and 5th centuries BC.

Finds in Museo Claudio Faina

Eugenio Faina bought a number of objects that were excavated in the 1870s in the necropolis in order to ensure that they remained in Orvieto.  This is almost certainly the provenance of a number of finds from the necropolis that are exhibited in are exhibited in the Museo Claudio Faina.  These include a collection of ceramic vases decorated in both the black figure (6th century BC) and red figure (5th century BC) styles, which is exhibited in Rooms 6 and 7.   Other notable exhibits include the following:

Greek Vases (ca. 550 BC)


Three large, black figure vases in Room 8 are attributed to the important Greek artist Exekias.  Objects like these were used to store the wine used in symposia, a practice that the Etruscans took from the Greeks.  The presence of such high-quality possessions among the grave goods of the Crocifisso del Tufo Necropolis attests to the prosperity and sophistication of Orvieto at that time. 

Bronze Objects (ca. 600 BC)


Room 15 contains a collection of eight bronze mirrors, together with a bronze disc (illustrated here).  The museum provides a sketch of its damaged relief, which depicted a dancing satyr with leopards on its shoulders.

Finds in the the Museo Civico 

The following finds from the necropolis of Crocifisso del Tufo are exhibited in the Museo Civico:

Warrior head (ca. 550 BC)

This cippus came from the so-called tomb of the warrior (tomb K279), which Riccardo Mancini  discovered in the necropolis of Crocifisso del Tufo in 1880.  The tomb, which had two chambers, was under land that belonged to Mancini, and was subsequently buried when the land was returned to agricultural use.

The cippus, which is in the form of the head of a warrior, was discovered above the tomb.  According to the inscription on the right of the helmet, it marked the grave of Larth Cuperes, son of Aranth.  This name is unlike others found in Orvieto, and it is thought  that Larth might have been a foreign mercenary who settled in the city.

The inscription is discussed in context in the page Early Etruscan Inscriptions.

Funerary Cippus (6th century BC)

This fragment, which is the lower part of a funerary cippus, has reliefs on two sides of a the deceased wearing armour.

Finds in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale

Many of the finds in the museum came from the most recent excavation (1982-3) of the necropolis of Crocifisso del Tufo are exhibited in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale.

Drinking horn (6th century BC)


This striking bucchero drinking horn has a human head at one end and a crouching ram at the other.  There is a similar object, apparently from Chiusi, in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Read more:

P. Bruschetti, “Le Necropoli di Orvieto”, in:

  1. G. della Fina and E. Pellegrini (Eds), “Da Orvieto a Bolsena: un Percorso tra Etruschi e Romani”, (2013) Pisa, pp. 60-75 

P. Bruschetti, “La Necropoli di Crocifisso del Tufo a Orvieto”, (2012) Pisa

  1. Reviewed by W. V. Harris in Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2012

A. Feruglio, “Le Necropoli Etrusche”, in

  1. G. della Fina and E. Pellegrini (ed), “Storia di Orvieto: Antichità”, (20o3) Perugia, pp   275-328

S. Stopponi, “Itinerari Etruschi: Orvieto” (1985) Milan

Return to Museums and Excavation Sites in Orvieto.

Return to Walk III or  Walk IV.