A rare collection of ancient statues has been discovered at a site where ancient springs were once located in Tuscany. This unique find consists of 24 bronze pieces dedicated to gods that had been buried under mud and boiling water for thousands of years. The statues were found in the ruins of ancient thermal springs in the small town of San Casciano dei Bagni, which was a place of worship for both the Etruscans and the ancient Romans.
According to The Guardian, this is the largest find of its kind in Italy, which was discovered last year. Experts believe the statues were commissioned by wealthy families living in the area. The collection consists of statues of goddesses and gods, including a sleeping Hygeia, goddess of health, with a snake wrapped around her arm, and one dedicated to Apollo, god of sun and light.
The statues adorned the rims of the oval baths before being immersed in water during a spiritual ceremony that is thought to have taken place in the first century AD. The sanctuary became more luxurious in the Roman period, when it was frequently visited by emperors, including Augustus, and remained active until the 5th century AD, before being closed, but not destroyed, during Christianity.
The pools were enclosed by heavy stone columns, while the divine statues were left in the water, which was rich in minerals, including calcium and magnesium. The water was considered beneficial for the liver, for treating facial pains and for improving fertility.
Findings at the ancient springs, believed to have been used by the Etruscans in the second century B.C., included 6,000 coins as well as many figurines with sacred significance. These include small figurines depicting a palm with money, a penis, a pair of breasts, and a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, which were sacrificed to the gods and holy water in the hope of conception or general good fortune.
The exhibition, titled Gli Dei Ritornano (“The Gods Return”) at the Quirinal Palace will last until July 25 and then resume from September 2 to October 29, 2023. The relics will eventually be displayed in a museum being built in San Casciano dei Bagni, a hilltop town not far from Siena.
This unique find is not only an interesting historical artifact, but also provides us with a unique glimpse into the ancient rituals and beliefs of the Etruscans and Romans. It reminds us how much of the past can be lost to us if we do not care about preserving cultural heritage.