Key to Umbria: Perugia

This room contains a large collection of grave goods from the necropoles of Perugia the objects described below, as well as exhibits described on the page Etruscan and Roman Perusia I.

Palazzone Necropolis  

The Palazzone necropolis (which can be visited) is just outside Ponte San Giovanni (a few kilometers from Perugia), on a slope that descends to the Tiber.  The area is named for the Villa del Palazzone, which belonged to the Baglioni family.  The necropolis was in use in the 6th – 1st centuries BC.

A few Etruscan hypogea were discovered here in the 1790s.  Interest increased dramatically when the amazing  Ipogeo dei Volumni was unearthed during roadworks in February 1840, and subsequent excavations  established the fact that this hypogeum was on the edge of a large necropolis.  The subsequent excavations in the 19th century were unsystematic and the original provenance of most of the funerary urns and grave goods they unearthed was lost.   The area was then largely neglected until 1963, when systematic excavation revealed some 200 hypogea that were cut into the rock. 

The great majority of the hypogea discovered in the necropolis belong to the Hellenistic  period (4th - 1st centuries BC),  although five are considerably older.   Grave goods from four of these are exhibited here (in showcases 1 and 2).

Finds from Tomb 19 (late 6th century BC)

This hypogeum was excavated in 1963.  It had been violated but the collapse of its roof had protected some of the grave goods.  The most important of these was a band cup attributed  to Tleson, the major potter of  the so-called Little Master cups.  The design depicts deer, sirens and fighting cocks. 

Finds from Tomb 20 (late 6th century BC)

This hypogeum was excavated in 1963.  The grave goods included a kylix attributed to the so-called Leafless Group.  The design included a seated figure of Dionysus sitting on a stool between a maenad and a satyr (typical members of the Dionysian entourage) on the outside. 

Ipogeo degli Acsi (late 6th or 5th century BC) 

This hypogeum was discovered in the 1840s. 
The grave goods include a pair of inscribed bronze shin guards (6th century BC) that were made in Greece and might have been taken from the body of a Greek soldier defeated in war.  The later Etruscan inscription (early 5th century BC) on the shin guards reads:

arnth savpunias turce menrvas

               Arnth Savpunius gave [these] to Menrvas (Minerva)

It is possible that the shin guards were dedicated at Volsinii (Orvieto), and that they found their way to Perusia and more specifically to the Tombe degli Acsi after the fall of Volsinii in 264.  The inscription is put into context in the page on Early Etruscan Inscriptions.

(An important red-figured vase (330 – 310 BC) that is documented, probably inaccurately, as coming from Ipogeo degli Acsi is now in the Antiquarium del Palazzone.)

Black figure vase (5th century BC)

This vase from Tomb 172 is decorated with a mounted soldier on the front and a satyr and a maenad on the back.  The museum attribute the vase to the Gruppo di Monaco 883.

Villa Sperandio Necropolis 

This necropolis, which was to the north of the city, just outside Porta dello Sperandio (see Walk V), was in use in the 6th – 4th centuries BC. 

  1. The first find on this site in 1843 was the famous Sperandio Sarcophagus (below).  

  2. A small number of chamber tombs (5th and 4th centuries BC) were found nearby in 1857. 

  3. The sarcophagus of a lady was found in 1900 in a nearby hypogeum.  The rich grave goods (ca. 300 BC), which are now in the Museo Archeologico, Florence, included this golden tiara that was found still on the lady’s head.  (This photograph was taken in 2010, when it was exhibited at Perugia).

Sperandio Sarcophagus (ca. 500 BC)  


This limestone sarcophagus, which was discovered in a grave that was hewn out of the rock, contained the remains of a young man.  He had been buried with his armour, which was probably manufactured at Clevsin (Chiusi).  The sarcophagus itself can be dated from others discovered at Chiusi, all of which can be dated to the 6th century BC.  If this dating is correct, this sarcophagus provides the earliest  evidence of a sophisticated Etruscan society in Perugia.

The relief on the front of the sarcophagus depicts a procession headed by a young man (presumably the deceased), who carries a sceptre.  Three bearded male prisoners are tied to him by ropes around their necks.  Other prisoners (two veiled women and three men) follow, together with a dog wearing a collar and two asses laden with goods. Other male characters herding captured  goats and cattle end the procession. This scene has been interpreted in various ways, including: 

  1. the return of Perusian soldiers from a battle or a raid;

  2. the defeat of the Umbrians by the future founders of Perusia; or

  3. the migration of a family, perhaps from Clevsin, to Perusia. 

These interpretations are discussed in this webpage by Anna Eugenia Feruglio.

The scenes on the ends of the sarcophagus depict the luxurious home life of the deceased.  He is seen reclining, served by slaves and entertained by a man playing the lyre. 

Grave goods (5th – 4th centuries BC)

The museum displays (in showcase 5) two large imported red-figured vases from a hypogeum that was excavated here in 1857:
  1. a wine jar (ca. 450 BC) that was used for a later burial, which is attributed to the Polygnoton Group and depicts Achilles receiving his weapons; and

  2. an amphora (ca. 380 BC), which is attributed to the so-called Perugian Painter and depicts Dionysus and Ariadne with a maenad and a satyr.

Ipogeo dei Praesenti (4th or 3rd century BC)

A hypogeum (1st century BC) consisting of two or three small rooms was discovered in 1869 on the site of the nunnery of Santa Caterina Vecchia, outside Porta Sant' Angelo.  It contained four travertine urns:

  1. the inscriptions of a man called Presnte and his mother were in Etruscan; and

  2. those of his wife, Hastia Aemili Praesenti (whose cinerary urn is preserved as number 159 and exhibited in the upper level of the large cloister) and that of another lady were in Latin.

The Etruscan inscriptions probably date to the early 1st century BC, just before Perugia became a Roman municipium, while those in Latin belong to the Roman period. 

Grave Goods Hastia Aemili Praesenti (3rd or 4th century BC)

A number of objects that were found near the urn of Hastia Aemili Praesenti are exhibited here (in showcase 6).  These were much older than the hypogeum, and must have been heirlooms.  The objects are:

  1. a mirror inscribed with figures (identified by Etruscan inscriptions) of  King Tyndareus of Sparta (wrongly labeled "lamtun" or Laomedan, King of Troy), with his children Helen (on his knee) and the twins Castor and Pollux ;

  2. a bronze lidded situla (from the Latin word for a bucket, although this one was probably intended as a funerary urn) with a figure of a siren on its lid; and

  1. a magnificent golden earring whose twin is in the British Museum, London.

Monteluce Necropolises

The hill of Monteluce (see Walk VI) was the site of an extensive burial ground that was in use in the 5th - 1st centuries BC.  It has been the subject of a series of excavations:

  1. Some of these were carried out on a site next to a farmhouse known as "predio (property) Ara"  near Santa Maria di Monteluce, close to the junction of Via del Giochetto and Via Valle del Giochetto on the left side of the church. 

  2. An Etruscan krater (330 - 300 BC) decorated with the scene of Hercules and the Amazons was found in 1853.

  3. Three warrior tombs (4th century BC) were excavated there in 1887.

  4. Further discoveries were made during the works for the General Hospital in 1927.

  5. One or perhaps two rich tombs (ca. 300 BC) were discovered in 1927 in Via Madonna della Riccio, outside Porta Sant' Antonio.

  6. The Ipogeo dei Cai Catu (3rd - 1st centuries BC) was discovered in a garden in Via Guido Pompili (near Via Madonna della Riccio) in 1983.

Cinerary urns from two later hypogea discovered in the vicinity are exhibited separately:

  1. The hypogeum (2nd century BC) of the Rafi Family was discovered at the cemetery in 1887. 

  2. The hypogeum (1st century BC) of the Sortes family was discovered in a non-specified area of Monteluce in 1921.  (Urns from this hypogeum are displayed exhibited as numbers 199 - 206 on the page on Etruscan cinerary urns.

Ceramic grave goods from Monteluce

These objects in showcase 7 comprise:

  1. a black-figured dish (520 – 500 BC) excavated in 1887;
  2. a black-figured vase (ca. 500 BC) excavated in 1937;

  3. a red-figured vase (ca. 475 BC) excavated in 1887 and attributed to the Mykenos Painter, which depicts  the baby Hercules killing a snake;

  4. a red-figured vase (late 4th century BC) excavated in 1853, which depicts Hercules’ battle with the Amazons;

  5. a red-figured vase (late 4th century BC) excavated in 1887, which depicts Dionysus welcoming the deceased;

  6. a red-figured vase (late 4th century BC) excavated in 1887, which depicts a procession to the underworld.  (This came from the grave in Predio Ara: pther finds from this grave are in showcase 8, below).

The first three items are older than the graves in the necropolis and had probably been prized family heirlooms.

Grave goods from Predio Ara and Via Madonna della Riccio

These grave goods are in showcase 8.

Predio Ara

These grave goods (4th century BC) found in 1887 beside the travertine urn of a warrior included his armour, and iron sword and a stand used in the wine-throwing game of kottabos.   (A red-figures vase from this grave is in showcase 7 - above).

Via Madonna della Riccio

An assortment of finds from this area is displayed, including a number of female possessions such as a bronze mirror inscribed with an image of the Dioscuri (late 4th century BC). 

Santa Giuliana Necropolis (ca. 350 BC)

The first discovery in this area behind the nunnery of Santa Giuliana, which was of the ditch grave of a warrior (4th century BC), was made in 1932.   The nearby necropolis, which contained a number of broadly contemporary warrior tombs, was discovered in 1935.

Grave goods (ca. 350 BC)

Showcase 9 contains:
  1. the grave goods from the tomb discovered in 1932  including: a helmet (the lower one on the left) that had been damaged by a blow; and an iron sword; and

  2. similar grave goods from two of the tombs in the nearby necropolis.

Grave goods from Pila (3rd century BC)

The grave goods in showcase 10 came from a necropolis at Pila, south of Perugia.  They were seized in 1929, by which time the precise context of their discovery had been lost.  The objects include a huge bronze shield, two unmatched shin guards, a pair of gold earrings and a set of tubular gold beads (which were subsequently threaded to form a three-stranded necklace).

Arringatore  (ca. 100 BC)

Pila was probably also the find site of the bronze statue known as the Arringatore (Orator) in 1563.  The Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici claimed it for Florence in 1566, and it is now in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Florence.  It was cast in seven pieces by the lost-wax process.  The figure wears a Roman toga and adopts the stance of a Roman orator. 

The inscription along the hem of the toga is in Etruscan despite the very Roman character of the figure.  It has been transcribed as:

aulesi metelis ve vesial clensi

cen fleres tece sansl tenine tuthines chisvlics

This (probably) translates as: “To (or from) Aule Meteli, son of Vel and Vesi: this statue was erected as a votive offering to Tec Sans by deliberation of the people”.  The figure certainly does not represent Tec Sans, a local deity dedicated to the protection of children: it probably portrays Aule Meteli himself.  The inscription is put into context in the page on Etruscan Inscriptions  after 295BC.

Frontone Necropolis

This necropolis was on the site of what is now the Giardino di Frontone (see Walk IV), extending as far as the church of San Costanzo and the Abbazia di San Pietro.  It was in use in the 4th and 3rd centuries BC.

  1. A warrior tomb (late 4th – 3rd century BC) was discovered here in 1840. 

  2. Systematic excavations in 1887 unearthed three (or perhaps four) other warrior tombs from the late 4th-3rd century BC and the tomb of a woman of a later date. 

  3. A final warrior tomb (late 4th-3rd century BC) was excavated in 1905.

Grave goods from three warrior tombs (4th century BC)

Showcase 11 contains grave goods from three hypogea that were excavated in 1840, 1887 and 1905 respectively.  

The grave goods from the first of these include a pair of shin guards that still preserve a fragment of an inscription that is somewhat unexpectedly in Umbrian.  The inscription reads, “tutas” (from the community).  It is possible that an Umbrian community had provided the shin guards for one of its soldiers, and that an Etruscan soldier had acquired them as booty during a battle.

The inscription is placed in its wider context in the page on Umbrian Inscriptions before the Roman Conquest.

Grave goods from a warrior tomb (ca. 325 BC)

Showcase 12 contains grave goods from another of the warrior tombs that was excavated in 1887.  It contained:


  1. a full set of armour, including a helmet that was probably from southern Italy and a pair of greaves modelled in anatomical detail;

  1. a stand used in the wine-throwing game of kottabos (which is being played in the painting on the wall nearby) and a bronze figure of a young man playing this game; and

  2. a krater (5th century BC) attributed to the Niobid Painter that contained the ashes of the deceased.  (This painter is named for a similar krater (ca. 460 BC) that portrays the slaughter of Niobe's children, which was found in Orvieto in 1880 and is now in the Louvre, Paris).  The two main scenes on the vase in Perugia are depicted here:
  3. In the upper photograph, Triptolemus sits in the chariot that Demeter had given him so that he could fly across the whole world sowing the first seeds, which Demeter is handing to him.

  4. In the lower photograph, a winged figure (perhaps Nike) stands between the seated Zeus and Hera.

Female sarcophagus (ca. 300 BC)

The plain sarcophagus that was discovered in 1887 [still contains the skeleton of a young woman ??].  Unfortunately, the grave goods, which included gold earrings, a mirror and other precious possessions, are widely dispersed. 

Continue to the page Etruscan and Roman Perusia I, which describes the other

exhibits in this room 

Return to the main page on the Museo Archeologico.


Museo Archeologico: Necropoles of Perusia

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