A major discovery of ancient art in Italy will go on show this month in the capital, Rome. Researchers found the more than 2000-year-old Etruscan and Roman statues in the area of Tuscany.
Italy is opening the works to public view at the city’s Quirinale Palace starting on June 22.
A retired garbage man helped in the discovery of the statues, which lay in mud at the ruins of an ancient spa.
Italian scientists announced the find in November. Experts called it the biggest collection of ancient bronze statues ever found in Italy. Some said it was a major finding that would "rewrite history.”
Researchers found the statues in 2021 and 2022 in the village of San Casciano dei Bagni. The village still has public baths in operation today. Researchers had long suspected ancient ruins could be discovered at the site.
The first few attempts to locate the ancient baths, however, were unsuccessful.
Then former garbage man and amateur local historian Stefano Petrini had an idea. He remembered that years earlier he had seen bits of ancient Roman columns on a wall on the other side of the public baths.
When Petrini took researchers to the place, they knew they had found the right spot.
"It all started from there, from the columns," Petrini said.
Emanuele Mariotti is head of the San Casciano archaeological project. He said his team had been getting "quite desperate" for evidence when Petrini’s information came through. They discovered a shrine at the center of the ancient spa complex.
The statues found there were offerings from Romans and Etruscans who looked to the gods for good health.
One of the most amazing finds was the so-called "scrawny boy," a statue about 90 centimeters high, of a young Roman with a bone disease. A small piece of writing has his name as "Marcius Grabillo."
Italian culture ministry archaeologist Ada Salvi said the muddy statue looked like the representation of an athlete. But, the expert saw it differently after the piece had been completely cleaned.
“…It was clear that it was that of a sick person," Salvi said.
More unusual offerings were also among smaller objects in the discovery. These include egg shells, pine cones, medical tools and a 2,000-year-old piece of hair.
"There's a whole world of meaning that has to be understood and studied,” Salvi said of the finds.
Workers permanently closed the spa about 1600 years ago. The warm mud of the baths protected the statues.
Digging will begin again in late June. Mariotti said more ancient objects are sure to be found in the coming years. The experts say they may find another six or 12 statues noted in a document found at the site. The archaeologists think that it may have been left by Marcius Grabillo.
"We've only just lifted the lid," Mariotti said.
After the Rome showing, the statues and other objects are expected to be given a home at a new site back in San Casciano.
Retiree Petrini hopes the treasures will bring "jobs, culture and knowledge" to his village, which is struggling with depopulation like much of rural Italy.
But he does not want to take credit for the discovery.
"Important things always happen thanks to several people, never thanks to only one," he said. "Never."
I’m John Russell.
Alvise Armellini reported on this story for Reuters. John Russell adapted it for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
spa – n. a place where people go to improve their health by swimming or bathing
column – n. a long post made of stone that is used as a support
archaeological – adj. relating to archaeology, a science that deals with past human life and activities by studying the bones or tools of ancient people
desperate – adj. having little or no hope
scrawny – adj. very thin in a way that is not healthy