(ANSA) - Grosseto, May 31 - Archaeologists have unearthed a beautifully preserved Etruscan house in western Italy in the first ever discovery of its kind. The 2,400-year-old building, uncovered at the archaeological site of Vetulonia near the Tuscan coast, is one of only a handful of Etruscan homes ever found. Nearly everything known about Etruscans has come from their extensive network of tombs. The remarkable condition of the house makes the discovery even more exceptional, say experts.
"These are the best remains ever found in Italy of an Etruscan home," explained Vetulonia Archaeological Museum Director Simona Rafanelli. "It is the only case of its kind in Italy. What we have found will enable us to reconstruct the house in its entirety.
"It offers a wealth of interesting new evidence".
Following an initial excavation of two weeks, the archaeological team revealed details of the earliest discoveries.
The building's walls were made of blocks of dried clay, the first ever example of Etruscan-made brick, said Rafanelli. Clay plaster was also found, along with a door handle and the remains of bronze furniture. Of particular interest is the basement of the house. Built of drystone this was apparently used as a cellar for storing food supplies. A massive pitcher which stood in the corner of the main room was used to hold grain.
Other finds include the original flooring of the house, made of crushed earthenware plaster, along with remains of vases, amphorae and plates painted black.
A large quantity of metal nails in the house, along with their placements, indicates the main room might have once contained a kind of mezzanine level built from wooden beams. Six Roman and Etruscan coins discovered on a small alter inside the structure suggest it collapsed in 79 BC, during a period of war sparked by the Roman general Lucius Cornelius Sulla.
Experts believe the building, which was used both as a home and for commercial activity, belonged to a wealthy and influential family at the time of its collapse. The variety of styles discovered so far indicates it was extended and renovated several times during its three centuries of existence. "The building was part of the ancient town of Vetulonia and is much older than other sections of the town uncovered so far," said Rafanelli. "We also want to work towards transforming this building into an open air museum," she added, promising the excavations would continue.