Etruscan Necropolis of San Cerbone – Casone

San Cerbone

The necropolis of San Cerbone is one of the most important cemeteries of the Etruscan city Populonia. The oldest evidence are two circular tumulus tombs belonging to the most powerful and wealthiest families of Populonia. During the 6th century BCE the necropolis continued to grow and new types of tombs were built: aediculae or "shrine shaped tombs" started to appear. These too belonged to only the important families of the area and imitated the city's temples.
During the same period the so-called "sarcophagus" tombs, made using slabs of the local sand stone known as "panchina" also began to appear. Recovered grave goods allow us to deduce that these burials were used by members of Populonia’s middle class. Despite their size, smaller than the shrine shaped tombs, more than one deceased could be buried in the same sarcophagus. The cemetery was abandoned around the 4th-3rd century BCE as a result of increased iron smelting activities in the territory of Populonia.

The graves which can be seen today were excavated between the beginning of the 1900 and in the 1960's. They were entirely covered by thick layers of iron slag, some dating back to ancient times. Our investigations, which began in 2012, were crucial in clarifying specific aspects of the history and development of the necropolis that, for the very first time, was subjected to a stratigraphical dig. The excavation plays an essential role in satisfying our interests in learning how the Etruscans organised their spaces, both for the dead and the living, and their daily activities (trade, religion, housing, etc.). During our excavations we identified a long wall running north-south that was built in the second half of the 6th century BCE, with the aim of marking the western edge of the necropolis. In fact some graves, including a tumulus tomb, had been identified to the east of the wall, but no tomb was found west of it. Instead were discovered the remains of at least three Etruscan buildings: we do not yet know their function, but they probably should relate to a district that could be defined as a “harbour area”.

Very close to the necropolis is evidence of industrial buildings used for iron smelting. Dated to belong to 4th - 2nd centuries BCE. These are currently in the progress of being excavated. Haematite, the ore processed to obtain the iron, was mined in the quarries of Elba Island while the furnaces were set up along the Gulf of Baratti.

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