National Archaeological Museum of Tarquinia

World Heritage Site

National Archaeological Museum of Tarquinia

World Heritage Site

National Archaeological Museum of Tarquinia

Palazzo Vitelleschi

National Archaeological Museum of Tarquinia
Piazza Cavour 1 – 01016 Tarquinia (VT)
Telephone: 0766 856036

Monterozzi Necropolis
Strada provinciale Monterozzi Marina
Tarquinia (VT)
Telephone: 0766 856308

Information on site schedules, admission fees and how to access the sites can be found at the following link

Further information can be found on the Museum’s official page

Ground floor

The ‘Museo Archeologico Nazionale Tarquiniense’ (National Archaeological Museum of Tarquinia) is housed in the 15th-century ‘Palazzo Vitelleschi’. The exhibition is located on the three floors of the building. The rooms on the ground floor contain, in chronological sequence, stone materials belonging to the museum’s collections, including sarcophagi dating from the mid-4th century BC. The most remarkable room is Room 10, which contains the most valuable sarcophagi, some of them carved in Greek marble and belonging to some of the most distinguished Tarquinian families from the mid-4th century BC.

First Floor

The first floor houses a masterpiece of Etruscan art, the famous sculpture called ‘Cavalli Alati’ (Winged Horses)– a terracotta high-relief sculpture dating from the 4th century BC which was part of the decoration of the temple of the ‘Ara della Regina’. In the adjacent room, visitors can admire the sculptural group of Mithras Tauroctonus, dated between the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. Recovered in 2015, the sculpture depicts the god Mithras in the act of killing a bull. Potteries from the excavations of the Necropolis are displayed on the rest of the floor in chronological order. The visit begins in the last room of the gallery, where the most ancient materials which date back to the Villanovan period (9th – 8th centuries BC) are collected. The following rooms are arranged in chronological order, so whilst walking along, visitors can admire artefacts dating back to the Orientalising Period (late 8th – 7th centuries BC) from Phoenicia and Egypt; vases imported from Greece, especially from Corinth, from the late 7th century to the 6th century BC; Etruscan-Corinthian pottery that the Etruscans produced in imitation of Greek and bucchero potteries, a typical Etruscan type of pottery which was an inexpensive reproduction of bronze vases. Then there are imported ceramics from Attica, made using the black-figure and red-figure painting techniques and dating from the 6th century BC. A display case in the ‘Salone delle Feste’ (the ‘Hall of Banquets’) houses a selection of Etruscan cast and minted bronze coins and gold coins from the late imperial period, which were found in the excavations of the Roman colony of Gravisca, founded in 181 BC. Gold jewellery made using the granulation technique is on display in another case. Moving on to the next rooms, visitors can admire locally produced artefacts made of ceramics and metal: mirrors, small bottles containing oil and ornaments. In the last room there is a collection of votive offerings to the gods, called ex votos, coming from the sanctuary of the ‘Ara della Regina’. Most of them are terracotta replicas of parts of the human body or heads of individuals for whom the divinity’s protection is being requested.

Second Floor

On the second floor there is a quadrangular loggia from which a magnificent view of the town and the countryside can be enjoyed.. Four painted tombs whose frescoes have been detached are preserved and reconstructed in a group of air-conditioned rooms: these are the Tombs of the Triclinium (‘Tomba del Triclinio’), of the Bigas (‘Tomba delle Bighe’), of the Olympic Games (‘Tomba delle Olimpiadi’), and of the Ship (‘Tomba della Nave’). In the Hall of Arms (‘Salone delle Armi’), the exhibition is completed by a selection of artefacts found in the large excavations of Tarquinia, supervised by the University of Milan for the Etruscan city and by the University of Perugia for the emporium at Gravisca.

Technique of detachment of wall paintings

In the decade between 1950 and 1960, the Lerici Foundation worked in Tarquinia, discovering or rediscovering numerous painted tombs.
Unfortunately, not all the tombs were in optimal conditions, so it was necessary to detach the paintings in some of them to preserve them from destruction.
The chosen technique is called ‘strappo’ (‘detachment’ in English) of the fresco.

Tomb of the Triclinium

between 470 and 440 BC
The tomb was discovered in 1830 in the Calvario area.
G. Dennis defined it as ‘the tomb of joy and feasts’.
The paintings were detached in 1949.
The burial chamber is rectangular.
On the back wall, above a base with a sea wave motif, a funerary banquet is depicted in an outdoor setting: three couples of diners, from which the tomb takes its name, are depicted lying on klinai (banquet couches).
One of the couples is seen in profile.
In the foreground, under low tables for tableware, there are a rooster, a cat, and a partridge.
The banquet is animated by musicians and both male and female dancers and served by cupbearers and attendants, depicted on the side walls.
Because of the perfection of the design and the refinement of the details, which brings these paintings closer to Attic red-figure pottery, many scholars have attributed the paintings to a Greek or Etruscan artist who had been trained in a Greek environment.

Tomb of the Ship

mid-5th century BC
Discovered in 1958 at the ‘Secondi Archi’ site, the paintings were detached in the same year as their discovery.
The tomb consists of a single rectangular room with a double-sloped ceiling.
On the back wall, four couples of banqueters are depicted reclining on the richly decorated klinai, served by naked cupbearers.
Musicians and dancers animate the banquet, which takes place outdoors as suggested by the trees.
On the left wall, a cargo sailing ship with two masts (which gives the tomb its name) and a smaller single-masted ship, surrounded by small boats, are depicted in a marine landscape closed by high rocks.
On the right of the scene, the owner of the tomb is depicted watching the ships.
The representation of a cargo ship and a port is unique in Tarquinian Etruscan painting.

Tomb of the Olympic Games

530-520 BC
The tomb was named after the Superintendent R. Bartoccini, who believed that ‘such a name was more suitable than any other, for the serene and happy competitive spirit that pervaded the scenes painted on the walls.’
In the centre of the back wall, there is a fake door.
On the pediments, there are symposia (banquets) with couples of men.
On the right-hand side wall, a large frieze illustrates funerary games: running, long jump, discus throw, boxing, and the ‘Phersu’ game.
On the left-hand side wall, there is a race of bigas (two-wheeled chariot drawn by two horses), the last of which has overturned, and the auriga (the person driving the biga) has been thrown into the air.
The tomb features very refined and elegant paintings, suggesting that it was probably painted by a Greek-Eastern artist.

Tomb of the Bigas

490-480 BC.
This is a particularly sumptuous tomb, even in its finishing touches: along the walls there are two friezes, one small on a sort of relief frieze, and one large.
In the small frieze, on a white background, the funeral games are represented and it is the only case where all the races that were in use in Greece and the typically Etruscan ‘Phersu’ game are represented.
At the corners, two wooden platforms with a canopy are depicted, from which numerous people, men and women, are shown watching the races and engaged in lively conversations.
Below the platform, there are servants lying down who are following the races.
In the large frieze, on a red background, there is a banquet scene enlivened by dancers and musicians, which is unfortunately very damaged.

The Winged Horses

490-480 BC
In the room carrying the same name, we find the masterpiece of Tarquinian coroplastic art, now considered the symbol of the town. It is a high-relief sculpture consisting of two winged horses standing in profile, prancing and harnessed to a biga. All that remains of the biga, which must have been depicted on a second slab to the right of the one with the winged horses, is a piece of its shaft. This sculpture, enriched in red, brown and cream colours, was used as a covering for the left mutule of the Temple of the ‘Ara della Regina’, which, in turn, was built around the 4th century BC to replace an archaic temple. The building underwent various changes and was probably transformed into a church during the early Middle Ages.

The Necropolis







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Photography by: César Vásquez Altamirano, Tiziano Crescia, Roberto Romano, Sailko Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported, Paolo Monti

Translations by Ylenia Marcucci e Alessandro Rotatori