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Etruscans, their Food, Burials and the Etruscan Civilization

The Etruscan civilization developed over a period of 1000 years and ended 2000 years ago. During the height of its existence Etruscans settled and flourished between the Tiber and Arno Rivers and the Italians in Central Italy today are descendants of the Etruscans.

Not only that, but the Italian language today has its roots in the Etruscan language of yesterday.

The Etruscans were very much for revering women so women and men were on an equal footing,  their men were clean shaven and made good sailors and merchants. They sailed to Norway and to many other Mediterranean ports.

The Etruscans were not only good sailors and merchants but also sportsmen, warriors and skilled farmers.

Etruscans as Farmers

Etruscan Pipe Player They were very good olive farmers, and the olive branches and leaves decorated all of the Etruscan frescoes.

Even today, the Tuscan hillsides abound with olive groves and modern potters continue the practice of decorating their ceramics with olives and olive leaves.

The Etruscans loved to grow crops besides grapes and olives and grew barley, millet, broad beans, lentils, chickpeas and spelt.

They also grew beans, peas, garlic and onions, figs, melons, apples and berries.

They also kept livestock, especially pigs, chickens, ducks and goats and hunted game from the surrounding forests; rabbits, deer and boar.

 Fish were taken from the rivers and the seas, and they were already making pasta with the use of rolling pins.

Etruscans and Food and Wine

The Etruscan civilization had people who ate 2 meals a day, enjoyed holding banquets and made good wine. Their culture and civilization was influenced by the Greek culture, and they in turn influenced the Roman culture, and in turn the Tuscan culture as we know it today.

Etruscan food traced from archaeological findings and frescoes it was seen that many foods eaten then are still eaten today. They used herbs like rosemary to flavor their meats,  honey to sweeten desserts, and they had utensils such as saucepans, pans, graters, pots, colanders, goblets and pitchers and beautiful plates that they ate off. They baked and cooked over open fires and produced a variety of breads, one of which is still eaten today - flat grape bread.

Wine was plentiful and stored in terracotta jars underground. It was strong and often drunk watered down. Today you will still Italians who drink wine diluted in this way.

The Etruscans in Life After Death

An Etruscan Funerary Urn
The Etruscans were devoutly religious and great believers of life after death, and it was important to prepare the dead for the life thereafter.

As a result, when someone died they either cremated the remains or the bodies were placed in stone tombs.

Both these practices in dealing with the dead were carried out at the same time during this era,  as both Etruscan urns and sarcophagi were found in the tombs.

For those that were cremated the ashes were placed in ornately  decorated
Etruscan funerary urns that were often brightly painted.  Unfortunately, today, some of the urns have lost their color. On top of the funeral urns there were reclining figures of the person who had died usually shown eating, although not always. The outsides of the funerary urns were highly decorated as you can see from the picture above.
Here is another example of a painted Etruscan funerary urn

The Etruscans decorated their tombs with articles that would be needed during the life thereafter. The tombs too were decorated in stone relief as can be seen here.
The highly decorated Etruscan Tomb at Cerveteri, just outside of Rome

For those that wanted to be buried, rather than cremated, they would end up in tombs such as these. The stone beds as seen in the picture above would be where the carved sarcophagi would be placed.

Husbands and wives were often buried together, as can be seen in the example below.

Etruscan Sites

There are several towns that are built on top of Etruscan ruins. San Gimignano, Arezzo and Cortona are three such towns. However, there are also Etruscan sites of importance that can be seen that are well preserved.

Many of Etruscan sites can be visited within a day's trip from Rome. Tarquina, Villa Giulia and
Cerveteri are worth a visit. Tarquina and Cerverteri have Etruscan tombs decorated with frescoes, and Vialla Giulia that houses Etruscan art and artifacts.

Grosseto, in Maremma includes many Etruscan sites, as does Marsiliana south of Grosseto where there are several Etruscan burial sites. Terne di Saturnia has Etruscan remains, including part of the town wall, and Sovana features some of the most impressive tombs.  1 km south of Sovana is the Ildebranda Tomb, one of the best preserved tomb in a set. Finally, Pitigliano, about 9 km away has a wonderful aqueduct. It also has a burial site outside the town walls, and part of the old Etruscan wall can be seen near the Porta Capisotto.

Map of the Etruscan Sites in Italy

Map showing the extent of the Etruscan civilization

The modern names of the 12 Etruscan league cities are as follows:

1) Arretium  - Arezzo
2)  Caisra - Cerveteri
3)  Clevsin - Chiusi
4) Curtun - Cortona
5) Perusna  - Perugia
6) Pupluna - Populonia
7) Tarchna  - Tarquinia
8) Vetluna  - Vetulonia
9) Felathri - Volterra
10) Velzna  - Bolsena
11) Velch - Volci
12) Veii - Veii

Slow Food Italy - An Etruscan Recipe for Grape Flat Bread

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup olive oil
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 pounds seedless black grapes

Freshly baked flat grape bread In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1 cup of warm water. When the mixture foams, after 5 minutes, stir in a pinch of salt, 4 tablespoons of the sugar and 4 tablespoons of the olive oil. Stir in enough flour to make a soft dough that is not sticky.

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for 5-8 minutes until firm, smooth and elastic. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover it. Set the dough aside for about an hour to rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Oil a rectangular baking sheet. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and roll it out into a rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. Enough dough should hand over the edge of the pan to completely cover the top when folded.

Transfer the dough to a baking sheet. Spread most of the grapes over it, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Fold the overhanging dough up over the grapes, covering them completely. Press lightly to seal. Scatter the remaining grapes over the dough, drizzle with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle with the remaining sugar.

Bake the bread until golden brown and the grapes are soft for about 45-60 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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