Archaeologist Jacopo Tabolli says the discovery will “rewrite history” after 24 bronze statues and thousands of coins are found at the bottom of a Roman pool at San Casciano dei Bagni.
Protected for 2,300 years by the mud and boiling water of the sacred pools, a never-before-seen votive array has re-emerged from the excavations at San Casciano dei Bagni, in Tuscany. More than 24 bronze statues, five of them almost one metre tall, were all found complete and in a perfect state of preservation.
“It’s a discovery that will rewrite history and one which more than 60 experts from all over the world are already working on,” archaeologist Jacopo Tabolli told ANSA in an exclusive preview.
Tabolli, professor from the University for Foreigners of Siena, has led the project since 2019. He called it an “absolutely unique” treasure trove, which was accompanied by an incredible quantity of inscriptions in Etruscan and Latin as well as thousands of coins.
Minister of Culture Gennaro Sangiuliano has already visited the conservation laboratory and applauds “an exceptional discovery that confirms once again that Italy is a country full of huge and unique treasures”.
“The layering of different civilisations is a unique feature of Italian culture,” enthuses the head of the Collegio Romano.
“It’s the most important discovery since the Riace Bronzes and is certainly one of the most significant discovery of bronzes ever made in the history of the ancient Mediterranean,” says the ministry’s director general of museums, Massimo Osanna.
Osanna has just approved the purchase of the 16th century palazzo that will house the marvels yielded by the Great Bath in the village of San Casciano. The new museum which will be flanked in the future by a full-blown archaeological park.
The San Casciano shrine
The 24 statues can be dated between the second century BC and the first century AD, explains Tabolli.
The shrine, with its bubbling hot pools, sloping terraces, fountains, and altars, existed at least from the third century BC and remained active until the fifth century AD. In Christian times it was shut down but not destroyed, its pools sealed with heavy stone pillars, and the divinities entrusted respectfully to the water.
It is also for this reason that the archaeologists found themselves looking at a still-intact treasure trove. It is in effect “the greatest store of statues from ancient Italy and in any case the only one whose context we can wholly reconstruct,” says Tabolli.
Here, surprisingly, the Etruscan language appears to have survived much longer than has hitherto been assumed. It also seems Etruscan knowledge in the medical field appears to have been recognised and accepted in the Roman era too.
Tabolli explains “that even in historical epochs, in which the most awful conflicts were raging outside, inside these pools and on these altars the two worlds, the Etruscan and Roman ones, appear to have co-existed without problems”.