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The 2011 Campaign: The Painted Plaster

During the 2009 excavation campaign, an edge of white plaster unexpectedly appeared on the surface in the left corner of the entry. A champion was immediately taken and analyses were performed in the Diagnostic Laboratory for Conservation and Restoration of the Vatican Museums. The results pointed out that it deals with alabaster gypsum. This type of covering, diffused in the eastern Mediterranean, it is unknown till now in Etruria.
Gypsum is present in various fields in the Mediterranean, but is particularly abundant in the island of Cyprus. Use of this plaster is actually documented in the necropolis of Salamis, famous for its impressive royal tombs. This evidence confirms the hypothesis already advanced by archaeologists: highly specialized skilled workers, driven by master builders of Cypriot origin, operated in the service of powerful Tarquinian princes during the Orientalizing epoch. For the “Tumulus of the Queen”, these artisans cared the technique of covering more familiar to them. It was an experimental intervention, which apparently was not replicated: the plaster in fact, that is compact and resistant by itself, it didn't stick well to the local limestone. The technicians members of the Higher Institute for Conservation and Restoration, which carried out emergency work during the excavations of 2011, found much of the plaster on the ground, in a fragmentary state.
The coating that originally covered all the “Piazzaletto's” walls and the chambers brings traces of painted decorations in black and red: these are bands and double straps that highlight the main architectural elements of the environments and more complex representations of uncertain reading. The fragments of plaster with more dye come from the right-side chamber.
These paintings date from the second half of the seventh century B.C. and they are probably the oldest in Tarquinia. Their location, in an open space reserved for the living, is unique: the nobles and relatives of the deceased, who regularly attended the "Piazzaletto", could admire a painting cycle that unfortunately has come down to us through weak traces, but it had to be particularly suggestive.
 
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