Anne's Blog

Discovering Ancient Treasures of Bolsena

Date: June 10, 2021 - categories: , , , , - Leave your thoughts

The imposing medieval castle of Bolsena overlooks Lake Bolsena, the largest volcanic lake in Europe.

The lake was a volcano about 300,000 years ago, its shores were settled probably in the Neolithic period and as of the Bronze Age (3300 BC to 1200 BC), settlements grew and prospered.

The evidence?

Don’t miss a visit to the Museo Territoriale housed in the 13th-century fortress, the Rocca Mondaldeschi della Cervara, as of 1991. You’ll enter up a small wooden bridge through a crenellated tower gate:

You’ll pass Roman artifacts as you enter the museum through a courtyard, many of them tomb-markers:

Roman artifacts are included in the museum display inside, as well as far earlier artifacts of the Villanovan and Etruscan periods.

The eye-catching smiling 1st-century B.C.  putto  (cherub), touching his chin, resting on shells and algae, probably was a decorative element of an edifice honoring Venus – or Bacchus:

Another magnificent Roman treasure is the Trono della Pantera (Throne of the Panther), center-staged in the orgiastic rites to the god Bacchus but destroyed in the 2nd-century B.C. at order of the Roman senate abolishing orgiastic Bacchus events. Hammered into 186 pieces, the throne has been re-composed:

Bacchus is also revered in one of the Museum’s finest Roman pieces which greets you as you enter, the marble Roman sarcophagus (late 2nd- 3rd-century A.D.)  just above the many books on the museum, Bolsena and the Lake area:

The huge sarcophagus sculpted in Greek marble is finely decorated with reliefs of the rites to the god Bacchus:

 

 

 

Ample is the  display of well-preserved findings of both the Bronze Age (2300-700 BC) and Iron Age (700- 1st BC), retrieved from the lake bottom:

In one of the first display cases, an 8th-c B.C. bronze olletta caught my attention – the first one I had ever seen:

I talked with the museum staff about its function – and they told me it was for the preservation of foods of the Villanovan peoples. In Italy, the Villanovan period (c. 900–700 BC) is regarded as the earliest phase of the Etruscan civilization and is the earliest Iron-age culture of northern and central Italy, as indicated on this map

Another Villanovan olletta of the 8th-c BC sat near a bronze horse bit and bridle pieces of the same epoch in a nearby case:

An elegant olla painted in red joined an intricately- incised black orciolo (used for liquids) and two delicate curved-handle drinking cups:

8th-c B.C. clay ovens joined small ollette in a display case.

Stunning was the robust  incised clay lamp with perforations for eight candles encircling the top rim: 

And after the Villanova period, the Etruscans settled along the shores of Lake Bolsena, having been outcast from their city of Velzna (Orvieto) when taken over the Romans.

Precious funerary objects  of thirty tombs of the 3rd-century B.C. Etruscan necropolis Cariola (located between present-day Bolsena and charming lakeside town Montefiascone) were displayed with precise explanatory labels:
As I looked at the objects, I marveled:  formed by potters over one thousand years ago and here for us to see. Intact.
You’ll need a few days to discover all the treasure of Bolsena – and this museum should highlight your list.
Read about the glorious Bolsena celebrations for the Feast of Corpus Domini

Read about living tableaux to celebrate Bolsena’s patron saint, Santa Cristina

Read about martyr saints and good eating in Bolsena

Click here to read about the Orvieto/Bolsena link to the Feast of Corpus Domini

Read about floral wonders to celebrate Santa Cristina

Read about – and see! – Bolsena’s singing washerwomen

Click here to read about our first meeting with Bolsena’s singing washerwomen

Read about Bolsena’s many enticements

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Agenzia Viaggi Stoppini in Assisi handles all technical support for my guided visits (bus transportation, organization of meals, etc)