The Tombs

Some of the most important tombs will be now called to the visitor’s attention.

The Etruscan Period: THE TUMULUS TOMBS (7th - 4th century B.C.)

Tumulo I of Sodo The tumulus tomb is the most antique from of burial deriving from the idea of covering the departed with stones and earth, in order to be able to identify where they were buried to make it an object of religious and social recognition. This was the method of burial noted in civilized societies from the third millennium before Christ. They acquire an artistic and architectural aspect in the countries near the Mediterranean in the first millennium before Christ, where under a tumulus of various dimensions, they started building mortuary rooms, which were richly adorned and decorated.

In Etruria the diffusion of mound tombs was widespread and covered the shoreline areas of Cerveteri and Tarquinia as well as the inland areas of Populonia, Vulci and others. Here in Cortona three mound tombs have been found. They lie on the bottom of the hill, one on the South in the area of Cortona and two on the North-West in the area of Sodo. The latter two are quite close one another. The archaeological material found in the interior of them, which is only a small part of what was originally placed there (since they were probably pillaged in the course of the centuries), is displayed at the Archaeological Museum of Florence and in Cortona at the Academy Museum. The object contained in the tumulus tombs of Cortona date back to the 7th – 4th century B.C. and would identify the departed among the members of royal people, dealing with agricultural holdings and the production of metalwork and weapons. They participated in commercial and economic affairs, which had an impact not only in Etruria but also in the Mediterranean area up to the Orient and Egypt. The tombs will now be described in order of discovery and referred to by the name "Melone", which is due to their round shape.


This "Melone" was discovered in 1842 by the French Alessandro François on a land belonging to the Sergardi family. François excavated the South tomb, whereas the North tomb was excavated in 1964. The material found there is displayed at the Archaeological Museum of Florence and is of great documentary and artistic value. One of the celebrated pieces is a plate inscribed with the justice of Paride dating back to the 6th century B.C. Along the seventy meter perimeter wall (called “tamburo”) there are modern constructions which unfortunately make it impossible to study its entirety. Cortonese architect Domenico Mirri (1856-1939) left a detailed description of other building techniques of the burial chambers at the interior of the "Meloni" of Cortona in his publication, "The building methods of the architecture of Cortona from the origins of the city until our times", Stabilimenti Tipografia Sociale, Cortona 1923, reprinted now by Calosci Editore.


Detail of the Tumulo I of Sodo It was explored for the first time in 1909. Its exploration only brought the burial chambers to light as there had been pillages over the centuries. The South-West quadrant was restored in 1916 under the supervision of architect Domenico Mirri (who leaves a detailed documentation in the above mentioned publication). In 1912 it was donated to the Etruscan Academy by Giulia Baldelli, widow of the member Girolamo Tommasi. Further restoration and research on the Tumulo II could make it an inviting place for visitors.


Altar of the Tumulo II of Sodo It was explored for the first time in 1927. The recent excavation brought to the light a tumulus with a tamburo of more than 70 meters in diameter. It proved to be carefully built of large, square blocks of stone of different sizes, which are raised four rows in height and horizontally traced by two offsets and crowned by a triple moulding of the "bull" shape or "owl beak" shape. Thanks to these details the work has been classified among those of with heavy Eastern influence from classic Greece. It is the only example in Etruria which preserves elements of its decorative sculptures. All the other objects of the large archaic mound tombs of the other locations got lost. Two chambers and a tomb have been discovered inside the tumulus and the gold work found is now displayed in the Museum of the Etruscan Academy. On the side of the tamburo facing Cortona a unique terraced altar has been discovered. It could be accessed using six steps, which are flanked by two ornaments representing a battle scene between humans and mythical animals. It is now the property of the Etruscan Academy.