Pottery cinerary urn shaped like a hut

Early Italian Iron Age (Villanovan period), 900-800 BC
From the Alban Hills (Lazio)

A model of a simple hut

The Early Iron Age people of Etruria during the Villanovan period (about 900-700 BC) usually inhabited small villages on defensible sites. These were often later the sites of Etruscan towns or cities. Their huts were rectilinear or oval, and we can get some idea of their appearance both from the excavated remains and from pottery models such as this. These were used as cinerary urns, to contain the ashes of the dead after cremation. The urns were placed in round pit graves in cemeteries adjacent to the settlements.

The hut that is represented here was oval in plan, and built of wooden posts and beams with wattle and daub walls. The poles laid across the roof presumably kept the thatch in position. The door is placed below the gable, and has a smoke-vent above it.

The doors of the urns were held shut with a bronze pin. Often they are found with miniature versions of personal possessions, such as bronze razors, brooches, knives and spearheads, and array of pottery, all preserved within an extremely large pottery jar called a dolium. It seems that people of the period believed in an afterlife and wanted the dead to be well-equipped for it.

Chicken bones have been found in some of these urns, perhaps left over from the funeral feast and swept up together with the ashes of the deceased.

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More information


E. Macnamara, The Etruscans-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)


Height: 33.000 cm

Museum number

GR 1840.1-11.15 (Vases H 1)


Hamilton Collection


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