Etruscan tomb in Corsica may yield secrets on civilization’s decline

A team of archaeologists excavating in Aleria-Lamajone (Corsica), France has unearthed a magnificent Etruscan underground burial and an ancient Roman necropolis.
As explained previously on, “about 3000 years ago, a mysterious people called the Etruscans, settled in a region of Central Italy known as Etruria. They were one of the most powerful civilizations in ancient Italy before the rise of the Romans.

Despite that these ancient people were much closer to us in time, they were even more enigmatic and inaccessible than other ancient cultures such as Crete, Mesopotamia, or Mycenae, and we have still much to learn about them.” The discovery of a hypogeum, an underground burial chamber dug into the rock led to a prescription for further excavation. Scientists have discovered beautiful ancient artifacts and expanded their knowledge of Etruscan funerary practices.

According to INRAP scientists who are working at the site, the state of preservation of the ancient burials is remarkable despite the acidic soil in Corsica, which usually destroys bones. Several funerary practices are represented: inhumation in pits, masonry coffins, studded wood coffins, funeral pyres, etc. Prestigious artifacts (ornaments, vases, etc.) are associated with these graves: more than two hundred artifacts have been recorded, including around one hundred complete vases dated from the 3rd century BC to the 3rd century AD.

A Hypogeum
Within this funerary group, among the tangle of burials, the Inrap archaeologists have just revealed an Etruscan tomb in a hypogeum. This type of tomb is an underground burial chamber usually reserved for high-status individuals.
A flight of stairs leads to a six-meter-long corridor leading to the burial chamber. At more than two meters in depth, this chamber is still intact, being sealed with a mass of clay, potsherds, rocks, and charcoal. The archaeologists think that this seal was opened and filled in again several times to deposit new grave goods, and perhaps new deceased individuals, into the chamber.
Due to the position of the hypogeum within the necropolis, it was necessary to excavate the contiguous burials first. The natural collapse of the ceiling and the filling of the chamber through time required the archaeologists to excavate it from the top.


The excavation of this 1m2 rectangular grave has thus far yielded several artifacts, including three black varnished goblets and the handle of a probable oenochoé. Two skyphoi, a type of goblet with large handles, were discovered near the skull of an individual. All these remains are currently above the ground level of the staircase. Based on these artifacts, this burial can be attributed to the 4th century BC, but the continuing excavation and studies will shed light on as yet unanswered questions. This is the first discovery of this unusual type of funerary structure in France in over forty years.

A Historic Center
Aleria is a reference site for the ancient history of Corsica and the western Mediterranean. The research conducted by Jean and Laurence Jehasse in the 1960s on the Masselone Butte in Aleria uncovered the Roman city surrounding a forum and an amphitheater. Further south, the exceptional Etruscan Casabianda necropolis (between c. 500 to 259 BC) was listed as a Historic Monument. It is one of the richest Etruscan funerary sites known outside of Italy.

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