Il Museo Nazionale Etrusco Rocca Albornoz
by Samantha Melamed
One of the most significant museums in the Lazio region is the Museo Nazionale Etrusco Rocca Albornoz—the archaeological museum of Viterbo. The museum, named after Cardinal Albornoz, is close to the original medieval walls of the small city near Porta Fiorentina. The museum itself is aesthetically different from any museum I’ve been to in America. The building is rectangular and built around a courtyard, which is accessed upon entering. The courtyard is tranquil; it’s tiled with white pebbles, a fountain, and… sarcophagi lined along the right wall. Each sarcophagus is distinct in its interpretation of death, represented by the human figures sculpted in tufa. The idea of death changes as the figures lying on the sarcophagi slowly emerge into wakefulness through the years, as the Etruscan idea of afterlife grew more optimistic.
The Museo Nazionale Etrusco Rocca Albornoz displays a special inward glance of what everyday life was like for the Etruscans, credited to the excavation of Acquarossa. The excavation gave the museum most of its artifacts, including objects discovered in Etruscan dwellings used for everyday life (plates, vases, weights, small ovens, nails jewelry, playing die) located on the first floor, and funerary objects found in tombs (chariots that resemble whimsical wheelchairs, caldrons, and black vases) on the second floor. The museum also features reconstructions of an Etruscan house, a symposium room, a porch, and a painting with a refined taste for decorations.
Upon seeing the commonplace objects used by the Etruscans, I felt a connection with these people who roamed the same Tuscia region hundreds of years ago. On the outside looking in, people visit the museum every day to study Etruscan exhibitions as though human life in the eighth century B.C. is so foreign to human life in 2017, which creates a gap that dehumanizes history. But these ancient artifacts remind us that the Etruscans eat, wear jewelry, and play games just like we do—which may be the very point of studying history, visiting museums, and traveling.0