Key to Umbria: Perugia

Image courtesy of the
Sopritendenza per i Beni Archeologici dell' Umbria

This cross-shaped four-roomed hypogeum is one of very few Etruscan burial sites to have been scientifically excavated in its undisturbed state.  It was found in 1983 at Monteluce, in a garden in Via Guido Pompili (see Walk VI), when a gardener penetrated the vault of the vestibule.  The travertine slab at the entrance remained in place and animal bones and pottery found just inside represented the remains of funeral feasts.  The hypogeum was faithfully reconstructed here in 2000. 

The sandstone sarcophagus against the back wall of the central cell (on the left below) contained unburned male remains.  It must date to the period when inhumation was just about to give way to cremation, and was probably used for the founder of the hypogeum.  It bears no inscription, but the urn to the right probably belonged to his oldest son.  If so, then the founder was Vel Cai Catu.  In this photograph, the founder’s sarcophagus is on the left.


The magnificent urn of Vel's son, Arnth Cai Catu is separately displayed (and replaced in the reconstructed hypogeum by a copy, as in the photograph above).  Arnth reclines on the lid and the front contains a relief of a man fighting two griffins.

Some fifty travertine cinerary urns were laid out in chronological sequence around these urns and then in the adjoining rooms.   They are all inscribed and each belonged to a male member of the Cai Cutu family.  Some 30 female members of the family are named in the inscriptions as the mothers of the deceased. 

The pre-fix "Cai" suggests that the founder of the hypogeum was a freed slave.  Later generations of the family dropped it and used only the name "Cutu".  In the most recent urns (in the vestibule), the inscriptions are in Latin and the family name is now Cutius.  One of them (EDR 148142) commemorates Aulus Cutius, the son of Aulus and Hastia Pisentia, of the Tromentina tribe: this inscription thus post-dates the concession of Roman citizenship to the Perusians in 89 BC.

A complete suit of armour, including a bronze shield, a shin-guard, an iron sword, and two bronze fragments of a helmet was discovered on the floor of the room on the left.  It must have belonged to one of the first men buried here, but it was placed next to one of the urns of a later generation, suggesting that it had been an heirloom.

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Museo Archeologico: 

Ipogeo dei Cai Catu (3rd-1st centuries BC)

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