After three nights in Rome, our caravan moved north. With our luggage in hand, we took the metro across the city to the bus terminal, where we met up with Giuseppe, our suave (or sketchy, depending on your taste) Italian bus driver. We left the bustling traffic of Rome for sweeping views of the Tuscan landscape and the muffled snoring of our classmates as they recovered from their jetlag. Some were awake to watch ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’ (we’re such Classics majors) and to listen to the quintessential Italian favorite, ‘Volare’, which has become our trip theme song. When we arrived in Cerveteri, we found ourselves completely removed from city-life, especially when our welcome party consisted of two donkeys outside of the museum gate. The museum was adjacent to an Etruscan necropolis, and we spent a couple hours exploring the tombs there. Before beginning our tour, Professor Stewart provided us with a synopsis of the prehistory of Etruria as we overlooked the grassy mounds of earth that were the tombs.
The Capital Tomb, our first of approximately a thousand on our Tuscany trip, gave us a taste of what was to come. Professor Stewart discussed different characteristics of the tumuli and introduced us to terminology we would need to understand the lectures in the coming days. We learned to recognize the gender of the deceased by the shape of the sarcophagus’ headstone. Each sarcophagus was shaped like a bed, and the interior structure of the tumulus was meant to mimic the typical Etruscan home, containing an atrium and connecting chambers. To access each tomb, we would descend into the earth by way of a dromos, a long entry channel with corbelling (early attempts at arches). Inside, the ceiling of the atrium was carved to resemble the roof beams and thatching of a real house, and the doorways leading to the connecting chambers were carved with the T-shape of the post and lintel frame. A couple tombs later, we started to notice suggestively shaped grave markers outside of the entrances, called cippi. Professor Stewart explained that the phallic nature of these stones was intentional, as they were also meant to indicate the gender of the deceased.
Towards the end of our museum tour, Briar and Allia stumbled into a tomb towards the back of the park with small tunnels leading out of the side chambers. Each was about a foot wide and four feet tall, making it impossible to turn around. There was no light either, but by the glow of the camera flash, we walked ten feet into one of them until we found a deep pit. It was exhilarating to venture into these unmarked tunnels; it was the most Allia had ever identified with archaeology Indiana-Jones-style.
Later in the afternoon, we supplemented this necropolis experience with some museum stops, one of which was directly on the Tyrrhenian coast. So, after a long day skulking in tombs, we visited the beach. We arrived just as the sun was setting, and everyone was disappointed not to have taken their bathing suits with them. Once Lily Dahn “accidentally” fell in, however, one-by-one we all jumped in until all the girls were swimming around in their jeans and t-shirts. Greg was the only boy to join us, earning him our respect. When we arrived (soaking) at our Hotel in Tarquinia, we had a view of the sea and the sun sinking below the horizon, and the satisfaction of having completed the first of many adventures “under the Tuscan sun”!
By Allia Benner and Chelsea