Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Special Introductory Offer!
Abruzzo's Lush Afterlife Volume 57 Number 5, September/October 2004
by Giovanni Lattanzi

Italian archaeologists are heralding two unusual discoveries in the country's east-central Abruzzo region. An Italic burial complex found during a preconstruction survey near the town of Tortoreto has been nicknamed the "Amazon Necropolis," as most of the dozen eighth- to seventh-century B.C. tombs contained the lavishly adorned remains of adult women.

Considerable amounts of bronze jewelry and amber earrings, beads, and pendants were found with the female burials. Since amber has its origins in northern Europe, its presence in the tombs indicates that the Italic peoples living in this region at the time enjoyed access to far-flung trade routes. A leather belt with rows of small, round-headed bronze nails was also found in each female tomb. "This necropolis is absolutely unique for Abruzzo," says excavation director Sandra Lapenna.

Tombs in the necropolis were dug into the ground and the bottom covered with a layer of marine sediment. The dead were interred in a fetal position, surrounded by ornaments and the everyday-life items believed necessary in the afterlife, including pottery, kitchen utensils, and loom weights. Only three tombs belonged to men, and they were sparsely stocked, containing only some ceramic pottery and a few bronze objects, including a razor.

Following the Roman conquest of Italy, funerary beds became popular with Italic peoples living in what is now Abruzzo. These beds, made of wood and covered with carved bone plates and "sheets," were placed inside a tomb and the deceased lain upon them.

The remains of an elaborate funerary bed dating from the second century B.C. was discovered at the Italic necropolis of Bazzano. While the wooden frame no longer exists, archaeologists expect to reconstruct the bed from the hundreds of bone plaques that once covered it.

© 2004 by the Archaeological Institute of America