Exceptional archaeological discovery with the finds at San Casciano dei Bagni, where 24 Roman-era bronze statues were discovered.
We’re talking about what experts believe to be the most important find since the Riace Bronzes in Calabria, a good 50 years ago.
The 24 bronze statues were found in a votive deposit in San Casciano dei Bagni in the province of Siena.
They are busts and full bodies.
Five of these are almost one metre high and portray gods, emperors, women and children.
Most of the finds can be dated to a period between the 2nd century BC and the 1st century AD, an historical era of great transformation in ancient Tuscany, in the transition from Etruscan to Roman.
Riace bronzes in Tuscany
The finds of San Casciano dei Bagni came about thanks to the project led by archaeologist Jacopo Tabolli, a young lecturer at the University for Foreigners of Siena.
A project that saw the contribution of specialists from various disciplines: architects, geologists, archaeobotanists, epigraphy and numismatics experts.
An exceptional find according to all those involved. The Ministry of Culture states how this find, which more than 60 experts from around the world are already working on, could rewrite Etruscan and Roman statuary history
The importance of the find is owing precisely to the bronze material of the statues. Until now, only terracotta statues had been linked to this era.
San Casciano, statues and more
During the excavations, statues were found portraying deities linked to medicine that were worshipped near thermal waters, such as Hygieia, goddess of health and cleanliness, and Apollo, god of medicine and healing, in addition to a bronze reminiscent of the famous Orator discovered in Perugia and part of the historical collections of the National Archaeological Museum in Florence
The Etruscans and Romans, in fact, were familiar with the health benefits of these waters.
Alongside the statues are findings depicting the organs and anatomical parts for which healing was sought from the deity through the thermal water.
Numerous votive objects and as many as five thousand gold, silver and bronze coins were also found in addition to the statues.
Bronzes of San Casciano, the inscriptions
The discovery of the San Casciano Bronzes is particularly interesting due to their exceptional state of preservation.
The excavation began in 2019 at the sacred bath of an Etruscan-Roman sanctuary near the thermal spring of the Bagno Grande of San Casciano dei Bagni.
And, in all likelihood, it was the hot spring water that helped preserve the Etruscan and Latin inscriptions engraved during their construction and still visible to this day.
Inscriptions that give us the names of rich Etruscan families in the Umbrian and Tuscan regions, the Velimna of Perugia and the Marconi of the Sienese countryside.
We can read onomastics and dedicatory forms in Etruscan, but also Latin inscriptions referring precisely to the acquae calidae, the hot springs of the Bagno Grande where the bronzes were found.
The statues thus came from the great families of the area and beyond, members of the Etruscan and Roman elites, landowners, local squires, the wealthy classes of Rome and even emperors.
Here, surprisingly, the Etruscan language seems to have survived much longer than the canonical dates of history, just as Etruscan medical knowledge seems to be recognised as such in Roman times.
Where the Bronzes of San Casciano were found
The statues were most likely made by local craftsmen between the 2nd century BC and 1st century AD.
They were found in an ancient sanctuary with bubbling pools, sloping terraces, fountains and altars.
The building had existed since at least the 3rd century BC and remained in use until the 5th century AD, in Christian times, when it was shut down but not destroyed.
The baths were sealed with heavy stone columns and the deities entrusted to the water.
The San Casciano site, according to scholars, is the largest deposit of statues from ancient Italy, and in any case the only deposit allowing the possibility to entirely reconstruct the context, mainly thanks to the excellent preservation of the statues in the thermal waters.
As archaeologist Jacopo Tabolli also explains, the location of the find is a “bubble of peace” of sorts. If we consider that “even in historical times when the most terrible conflicts raged outside, inside these vats and on these altars, the Etruscan and Latin worlds seemed to effortlessly coexist. Perhaps because the deity has been here from the very beginning, the water with its divination, its strength, its power: time passes, the language changes, even the names of the deities change, but the type of worship and the therapeutic intervention remain the same.”
Why the discovery of the San Casciano Bronzes is so important
Giuseppe M. Dalla Fina, an Etruscologist and lecturer at the University of L’Aquila, confirmed that “the uniqueness of these finds lies in the fact that in addition to giving us bronzes that in some cases are an expression of remarkable artistic skill, they also provide us with extraordinarily interesting information about daily life in this corner of the territory between the 2nd BC and 1st century AD. These statues, coins and votive offerings tell us that people came here in large numbers, also from neighbouring areas, to seek answers to prayers, to be cured by the thermal waters, to meet with doctors.”
Where the Bronzes of San Casciano will be displayed
The Bronzes and all the other findings will stay at San Casciano dei Bagni.
A new museum will be created here inside a 16th-century building and an archaeological park will close off the entire excavation area and ancient thermal baths.