SAN CASCIANO DEI BAGNI, Italy – An extraordinary series of almost perfectly preserved bronze statues have been discovered at a natural spa resort in Italy.
Twenty-four statues have been discovered in the Tuscan village of San Casciano dei Bagni, halfway between Rome and Florence. The area is known for a series of natural thermal pools and San Casciano dei Bagni has a 2,000 year old spaBalnea Clusinae this legend says was founded by Porsenna, an Etruscan king. The Romans continued to use the baths in antiquity and the city attracted visitors from all over Europe from the Renaissance to the early 20e Century.
The thermal springs of San Casciano dei Bagni are located just outside the town and are called “vasconi” or baths. The Romans then developed the natural springs to form the baths.
Archaeologists originally surveyed the area to explore the foundations of the original Great Bath sanctuary. To their amazement, they found hands sticking out of the mud. In the past two weeks, 24 statues have been discovered, including that of Hygieia, the goddess of health. A statue of Apollo was also found along with other deities, emperors and matrons.
Almost overnight, San Casciano dei Bagni is now home to the largest deposit of ancient Etruscan and Roman bronze statues ever discovered in Italy and one of the largest in the entire Mediterranean. The statues are unmatched as similar finds from this era have been mostly made of terracotta.
“It is a discovery that will rewrite history and on which more than 60 experts from all over the world are already working,” said Professor Jacopo Tabolli, the Etruscologist in charge of the excavations. He said that 50 years after the discovery in 1972 of the now famous “Bronzes of Riace”, the history of ancient bronze statuary from Etruscan and Roman times will be rewritten by the discovery of San Casciano dei Bagni.
The Riace Bronzes, also called the Warriors of Riace, are two life-size Greek bronzes of bearded warriors that were found off the coast of Calabria, Italy, in 1972. The Riace Bronzes, which have survived two millennia under the water, have rewritten the history of art by exposing the exceptional technicality of ancient artists and metallurgists. The Riace bronzes are now in the Museo Nazionale della Magna Grecia and are so unique that they are located in a specialized microclimate room on an anti-seismic platform.
The San Casciano dei Bagni bronzes will rival the Riace bronzes according to experts.
The importance of the discovery quickly caught the attention of the Italian Ministry of Culture. Museums director general Massimo Osanna said: “This is the most important find since the Riace bronzes and certainly one of the most important bronzes ever discovered in the history of the ancient Mediterranean.”
Orsanna then announced the approved purchase of a 16th-century building in the village of San Casciano that will be turned into a museum that will house the new find. He added that this will be the first step in the creation of a new archaeological park.
The statues were covered in nearly 6,000 pieces of bronze, silver and gold, and the warm, muddy waters of San Casciano helped preserve them “almost like the day they were submerged,” Tabolli said. . The statues were probably built between the 2n/a Century BC and the 1st Century of our era. They were probably immersed in the waters of the Great Bath around the 1st Century of our era.
Despite two millennia of burial, the statues are “almost like the day they were submerged,” Tabolli said.
The ministry said the period of the statues was one of a “great transformation in ancient Tuscany” and that the Great Bath represented a “unique multicultural and multilingual haven of peace, surrounded by political instability and war”.
“What emerged from the mud in San Casciano dei Bagni is a unique opportunity to rewrite the history of ‘ancient art’ and with it the history of the passage between the Etruscans and the Romans in Tuscany”, added Tabolli.
The remarkable detail of the 24 statues and several smaller statues that have now been recovered suggests that they came from an elite settlement, as the archaeological team also found “wonderful inscriptions in Etruscan and Latin”, mentioning the names of powerful local families.
Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano took the opportunity to say that this “exceptional discovery… once again confirms that Italy is a country with immense and unique treasures”.
For now, the statues have been transported to a restoration laboratory in the nearby town of Grosseto.
But the bronzes will return to the new museum of San Casciano.
The ministry added that the San Casciano bronzes represent the deities worshiped in the sacred place and that the healing waters represented the curative intervention of divine powers. The pieces found with the statue and various artifacts with Etruscan and Latin inscriptions are votive deposits. Votives, of course, were part of religious rites and Osanna noted that they were never meant to be found.
In Christian times, the sanctuary was closed but not destroyed, the reservoirs were sealed and the deities were submerged under water. Votives and statues were donated to sacred waters.
“You give to the water because you expect the water to give you something back,” Tabolli said. Indeed, the water seems to have done it.