Hypogeum of the Volumnis Bookmark and Share

Photograph of two funereal urns inside the vestibule above the Hypogeum of the Volumnis

Hypogeum of the Volumnis Information

The Hypogeum of the Volumnis is located five kilometers outside the city of Perugia among a site of Etruscan tombs known as the Necropolis of Palazzone. A 19th century vestibule exists above ground, enclosing and protecting the archeological site of this ancient Etruscan tomb. The vestibule itself contains a multitude of small funerary urns excavated from the surrounding necropolis that are terraced around the entrance to the hypoguem. From the vestibule, a steep staircase leads 5.3m (17ft) underground over 30 steps. A travertine doorway is at the bottom of this staircase which contains an inscription dedicating the chamber to the Velimna family (translated to Volumnius in Roman). Across the threshold is a large rectangular central chamber surrounded by nine smaller, funerary chambers in a somewhat anthropomorphic plan. The layout of this plan reflects the typology of a typical ancient Etruscan house; the central chamber is analogous to an atrium of the house, and is bordered by lateral chambers on its eastern and western sides; a chamber analogous to a tablinum is located at the far end of the central chamber along a main axis.

The carved limestone ceiling of the central chamber explicitly mimics the interior form of the traditional wood-framed Etruscan house, sloped in two directions from a central ridge beam, complete with correctly placed rafters, joists, and planks. A pediment above the door to the tablinum chamber in the central chamber depicts a large shield or disk with a head carved in its center. The head is thought to be either Apollo surrounded by laurel leaves or sun rays, or the head of Medusa surrounded by radiating scales on the shield of Minerva.

The lateral chambers consist of six cellae (chambers) and two alae (sub chambers). The six inner chambers along the western and eastern sides of the central chamber are the cellae. These cellae are analogous to extra rooms in a palace or the inner chambers in a temple; each of them has a bench and two of them have carved wall and ceiling reliefs of snakes, owls, and Gorgons. Located on the northern end of the hypogeum, the two alae flank the tablinum to the east and west but are not connected to it. The eastern ala has the form of a coffered ceiling like the tablinum. The cellae and alae seem to have never been occupied by any internments; this discovery is thought to be either due to the lineage dying out or a switchover to Roman funereal customs that did not utilize crypts of this distinctly Etruscan type.

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