Friday, June 16th, 2006
They’re 2700 year old Etruscan tomb frescoes found in Veio, outside of Rome. The vibrant frescoes depict birds in flight and roaring lions (no, there weren’t any lions in Italy at that point).
Giovanni Colonna, a professor at Rome’s Sapienza University, said although the frescoes were not as old as Egyptian art or some cave paintings, they had to be the oldest examples of the Western tradition of art that was then developed by the Greek and Roman civilisations.
Fragments of decorated pottery found in the tomb, and the clearly visible remnants of a wheel which once was part of a cart buried along with the bodies, indicate the burial site was that of a nobleman or prince.
In Etruscan art, the birds would have symbolised the passage between life and death and the lions represented the underworld.
The shady yin to this bright shining yang is that archaeologists only found the tomb because a looter led them to it to get leniency in his upcoming trial. Tomb raiders, known as tombaroli, have a long history in the area.
They also have unique tracking abilities. Archaeologists had already examined the field where the tomb was found and declared it officially uninteresting. A convenient declaration, I would think, for a tombarolo who after following mole tracks and/or the roots of fig trees can then help himself to the loot nobody official suspects exists.