Archaeological Museum of Bologna

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Collections / Ricerca / Etruscan Collection: the Orientalizing phase

Female’s grave goods from the “Tomb of the Gold Jewellery”

The female’s sepulchre discovered in the Necropolis of the Military Arsenal is better known as the “tomb of the gold jewellery”, due to the presence of precious gold jewelleries, among which there is a pair of braid clips adorned with small human masks and an elegant golden fibula, decorated with fantastic animals, executed with the technique of granulation process ("lavorazione a pulviscolo"), fulfilled by applying golden spherules, or granules, on the lines drawn on the surface of the object.
Only a small, engraved amphora has remained of several terracotta vessels that composed the dinner service. Numerous fibulae, armillae, bronze cloak pins and a few spindle whorls, which proved that this sepulchre was intended for a woman, are no longer identifiable in the collections of the Archaeological Museum either.

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The tintinnabulum

A tintinnabulum was a trapezoidal pendant typical of the Etruria in the Po Valley, which was usually moulded in bronze or combinations of bronze and amber. The first archaeologists presumed that tintinnabula were sorts of wind chime (tintinnum) or assemblage of bells, and that is the reason why they were given that designation. They were indeed pieces of females’ jewellery, a sign of the high rank of the wearer. In fact, they have only been discovered in the most lavish sepulchres belonging to the period between the late 8th and the early 7th century B.C.
This sample, exceptionally made from bronze leaves, shows an elaborate embossed decoration. On the lower plaque of the front side, a couple of women seated on thrones make the distaff ready for spinning, shown on the upper plate, whereas, on the lower rear side, other women arrange a bunch of yarn. On the plaque above, a weaver seated by a two-levelled loom intertwines the fabric, helped by a handmaid.
The complex narrative artwork is unprecedented in Bologna, but it can be compared to the engraved ivories discovered in northern Etruria, which is the alleged native land of the skilful artisan who decorated this typically female’s object with scenes of household chores, in order to pay homage to the errands the lady of the house would do every day. This new style of decorations caught on in Northern Italy and became predominant in Este, where the manufacture of embossed bronzes flourished and came to be known as the “situla art”.

Provenance: Bologna, Necropolis of the Military Arsenal, tomb 5, known as the “Tomb of the Gold Jewellery”
Datation: 630 B.C. ca.

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