Tomb of hunting and fishing

Dated 530 BC, the Tomb of Hunting and Fishing was discovered in 1873 and is one of the most particular all the necropolis of Tarquinia.
This tomb is located about 10 meters deep and can be accessed by going through the original steps dug into the tuff – peculiar for their irregular shape and different slopes -.

The paintings

The tomb consists of two rooms: an antechamber and the actual burial chamber.

Not all tombs in the necropolis have an antechamber, this is because the larger tombs with separate rooms had higher construction costs and were therefore intended only for the wealthiest families. The antechamber could be considered as a sort of “family chapel” where relatives could go to pay homage to their loved ones and gather in prayer.

The antechamber had a dual function, the first was to allow access without having to enter the sepulchral chamber, the second, more spiritual, of preparation for entry into Hades.

All the walls of the antechamber are painted, the large fresco in the main wall is surrounded by two bands, one at the top and one at the bottom: the one at the top with stripes of various colors – white, dark purple, light purple and cyan -, that below with purple stripes and the earth of Tuscia, from which – a strong symbolic element – shrubs and small plants arise. The main painting depicts a dance scene, men and women alternating with small shrubs and decorated with garlands and jewels, in a lower corner sitting an aulet – a player of aulòs, an Etruscan wind instrument -. Unfortunately the walls are very damaged due to humidity and it is impossible to have an accurate picture of the whole scene.

Above the large central door, on the tympanum, a hare hunting scene is depicted. Starting from the left and moving to the right we discover, in order: a servant carrying a curule saddle – a folding ivory stool -, a dog in front of him, another servant carrying a stick on his shoulder to which the prey are secured as soon as hunted, two hunters on horseback – surely one of the two identified in the owner of the tomb -, another servant who follows two dogs who have just spotted a hare hidden in the bushes.

Going through the door you enter the sepulchral chamber, here, on the back wall, on the tympanum, the scene of a banquet is depicted with the spouses who own the tomb as protagonists. The man is depicted with a beard, dark-colored skin – constant in Etruscan paintings – and a naked torso. He is leaning with his left arm on a pillow and with the same hand he holds a patera – a plate intended for offerings to the gods – with the other hand he touches his wife’s shoulder. The lower part of the body is wrapped in red and blue cloth drapes, around the neck she wears some necklaces: one thin with a hanging emblem, the other more important, probably in gold or silver. The woman, on the other hand, has a very fair complexion and wears a dress that leaves only her arms and head uncovered, on her head she wears a tutulus – a traditional Etruscan hat – and is adorned with jewels around her neck and arms. With her right arm she touches her husband’s chest while with her left she hands him a wreath. On the sides of the two spouses some servants are portrayed, on the right the men: one pours wine contained in a large krater, another carries a phiale – a container – and finally a third servant is behind the master but because of the degradation of this part of the wall, it is not clear what it is doing. On the left side of the painting, on the other hand, the servants can be admired, the closest to the mistress plays a double-reed flute, the second is seated from behind with her head turned towards the couple, while the third, naked, is making garlands for hang on the walls. The wall behind the couple is decorated with various hanging objects: a lyre, some crowns, a handle, a cylindrical box and a metal basket.

The back wall houses the most important pictorial scene, divided into two parts. The first part takes place in the water aboard a boat with a low keel, typical of lagoon environments, on board the boat you can see four characters: a helmsman, a fisherman and two other figures whose role is not very clear. On the bow of the boat, a blue eye is painted, a classic apotropaic symbol that indicates the direction. In the waters the boat sails, some dolphins leap as flocks of colorful birds fly across the sky. Behind the boat, on the shore, a man stands on a high rock and with a sling tries to hit the birds that are flying.

On the right wall there is a hunter, always armed with a sling, aiming at the birds flying free in the sky from the top of a cliff; further down, however, a fisherman with a harpoon is trying to catch the fish swimming among the rocks.

On the left wall, on the other hand, you can see a naked boy who dives from a high cliff, in the painting he is depicted while he is still suspended in the air, before falling into the water. Behind the young man, on the cliff, there is another man. Below a boat with two people is depicted, probably to help the boy get out of the water, the two figures look with admiration at the young man’s dive. In the sky, many flying birds are again depicted. This painting is one of the most important of the necropolis because it takes up the theme of the “young boy who dives” very common in the works of the late Archaic period and also present in the famous Tomb of the Diver of Paestum.

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