Key to Umbria: Bettona

Museo Civico

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The museum, which was the victim of a major burglary in 1987, has recently been re-opened in Palazzo Biancalana.   The nucleus of the current collection was formed from material collected by:

  1. Giuseppe Bianconi, who left his collection of local antiquities to the Commune when he died in 1897; and

  2. Francesco, Giuseppe and Pio Biancalana, whose property (including Palazzo Biancalana) passed to the Commune after the death of Bianca Biancalana in 1920. 

A collection of annotated illustrations (1851) by Pio Biancalana in the Biblioteca Comunale Augusta, Perugia constitutes the most important surviving record of the excavations carried out in Bettona in the early 19th century.

A medieval well some 22 meters deep was recently rediscovered under the piazza in front of the palace.  This was probably the well commissioned by Pope Alexander VI in 1489-92, which was closed in 1857 (see Walk I).  Plans are underway (July 2009) to incorporate the excavated area into the museum.

Inscribed cippi (late 3rd or early 2nd century BC)

These two sandstone cippi were found in 1860 in what seems to have been a necropolis outside Bettona.  They bear Etruscan inscriptions: 
  1. tular larna”; and

  2. tular larns”. 

The word “tular” probably meant boundary and the cippi seem to have marked the boundary of the area in which the “larna” family buried their dead.  This name is known from inscriptions from the necropolises of Volsinii (Orvieto), and it could be that the family left Volsinii when it was destroyed in 264 BC.   

The museum also exhibits three broadly contemporary funerary cippi from the city on which the Etruscan names of the deceased were inscribed: 

  1. [a]u casne navc” (PE 1.682)

  2. [.....]imial” (PE 1.683); and

  3. larθi caia au sec” (PE 1.685). 

These inscriptions are also described in the page on Etruscan Inscriptions  after 295BC.

Architectural Terracottas (3rd-2nd centuries BC)

Some 200 architectural terracottas were excavated in 1884 at an unspecified location outside Bettona.  Objects of this kind were used to decorate wooden temples, and this collection constitutes one of the largest of its kind in Umbria.  It is therefore particularly unfortunate that there no surviving record of the exact location of the find site.   The terracottas seem mostly to belong to a major restoration of the temple that was carried out after the Social Wars.

A group of votive bronzes (late 6th – early 4th century BC), mainly human figures or representations of body parts, which apparently came from an unknown location in or near Bettona, has also been known since the late 19th century.  [Some of these now form part of the Bellucci Collection in the Museo Archeologico, Perugia.]  These could have come from the same site and belong to an early phase, before the temple in question was monumentalised.

The most interesting of the terracottas represent:

  1. a
    fragment of a pair of panthers, which were apparantly hitched to a chariot, and a head from one of them (illustrated); and
  2. fragments from a relief of a winged victory driving a chariot. 

Funerary Urn (2nd century BC)

This urn probably came from the necropolis that was excavated at the Fosso del Colle in 1845.  It has an Etruscan inscription: “x---: vip[i : ve]lu caspre”.

Funerary Inscriptions (3rd and 2nd centuries BC)

The museum exhibits a number of travertine funerary cippi, some of which bear the names of the deceased.   Most of these probably came from the necropolis that was excavated at the Fosso del Colle in 1845.

  1. The Etruscan inscriptions commemorate:

  2. a lady, “laria : caia : au : sec” (late 3rd century BC);

  3. au casne nav[e]s[i]al” (late 3rd century BC); and

  4. a fragment, “[...]rmial” (late 3rd or early 2nd century BC).

  5. The archaic Latin inscriptions commemorate:

  6. Aprilia, the daughter of Lucius (CIL XI 5184, late 2nd century BC);

  7. Lucius Apriliu[s] (CIL XI 7981, late 2nd century BC); and

  8. Sextus Tarquitius, son of Caius (CIL XI 5200, late 2nd century BC), which is carved on what seems to be an older cippus (late 3rd century BC) that was apparently found beside the road some 1 km outside Torgiano.

The reason for this precocious use of latin in Bettona is unknown.

Portrait Bust of the Emperor Domitian (ca. 70 AD)

This marble bust, which was recorded in the museum in 1904, probably came from the collection of Giuseppe Bianoni.    It is recognisable as a portrait of the Emperor Domitian (81-96), the younger son of the Emperor Vespasian.  The bust depicts him as a young man, which suggests that it was commissioned soon after Vespasian’s victory over  Vitellius after the series of battles that took place in the region.

Head of Hercules

This cast is of an original that was stolen in 1987 and has not yet been recovered.   The original. which derived from the so-called Farnese Hercules (early 3rd century AD), formed part of the collection of Giuseppe Bianconi.

Inscription in honour of Vespasian (79 AD)

This inscription (CIL XI 5166: EDR 128232) on a travertine block was one of a number that were reused in the church of San Quirico .  It uses the term “tribunicia potestate decimum” (the head of state for the 10th time) as a dating device.  According to the EDR database, this inscription probably came from Urvinum Hortense (Cannara).

Oscillum (1st century AD)

This marble disc, which would have been hung as a votive offering, bears a relief of a satyr and maenad (respectively a male and a female follower of Dionysus.  The oscillum is of unknown provenance.  It may well have hung in a vineyard in order to secure divine help to make the vines flourish. 

Head of a Woman (2nd or 1st century AD)

This small travertine head came from the lid of a sarcophagus, perhaps from the Ipogeo di Colle, outside Bettona.  It is very badly damaged.

Head of Aphrodite (2nd century AD)

This marble head was discovered in 1884 in farmland near the owned by the Bianconi family, and formed part of the collection of Giuseppe Bianconi.  It was stolen in 1987 but found in New York in  2001.  It probably came from a small statue that was inspired by he Aphrodite of Cnidus (4the century BC) by the greek Praxiteles.

Fragment of a sarcophagus (3rd century AD)

This large fragment from the lower right of the front of a marble sarcophagus was documented in 1840, when it served as the architrave of a door in the convent of Sant’ Antonio da Padova

The front of the sarcophagus originally had a pair of doors between columns at its centre, with the left door was slightly open.  Each door was made up of square panels decorated with a lion’s head, which were arranged one above the other.   Striated panels flanked these doors.  At the extreme right, the lower part of the standing figure of a man survives, with his horse apparently grazing on grass to his left.

Deposit of the Museum

Inscription (2nd century AD)

This fragmentary inscription (CIL XI 5181), which was re-used at San Quirico , records a now-anonymous quatuorvir iure dicundo.   According to the EDR database, it probably came from Urvinum Hortense (Cannara), where a quattuorviral administration is securely documented.

Read more :

S. Stopponi (Ed), “Museo Comunale di Bettona: Raccolta Archeologico”, Perugia, 2006

Return to Walk I.

Return to Museums of Bettona.