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Examination and Analysis of Etruscan Wall Paintings at Caere, Italy

In 1983, the excavation of the ancient city of Caere near Rome, which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, led to the unearthing of an underground sanctuary dating from the early 3rd century BC. Known as the ‘Hypogaeum of Clepsina’, it consists of an underground room decorated with frescoes, drawings and inscriptions. The initiation of a new excavation campaign at Caere in 2012 provided the opportunity to study this rare example of Etruscan wall paintings of a non‐sepulchral nature from the Hellenistic era. The paintings were documented, photographed and samples were removed for analysis using a combination of scientific techniques. The observation that at least some of the painting was done on wet plaster supports the conclusion that the frescos are contemporaneous to the plastering of the walls in the hypogaeum in approximately 273 BC The plaster is lime‐based and aggregate materials include potassium feldspar, clinopyroxene, quartz, hematite and magnetite. No organic binding medium was identified in the paint, suggesting a lime water binder. Paint materials identified are Egyptian blue, red iron oxide (hematite), yellow iron oxide (goethite), charcoal black, quartz, silicates and calcite. All the paint samples show a mineral accretion layer at the upper surface, caused by recrystallization of salts. (Read More)