The Antiquarium of Poggio Civitate is located within the ancient Palazzo Vescovile (Episcopal Palace) in the centre of the small town of Murlo, a Medieval castle overlooking the River Crevole, which flows into the Ombrone.
The museum offers unique artifacts from the Etruscan civilization found locally in the surrounding territory. Beyond the Orientalizing burial articles from the Necropolis of
Poggio Aguzzo (7th century B.C.), there are extraodinary finds especially from the rich princely palace that stood at the heart of the settlement where the Etruscans lived, redisovered on the hill Poggio Civitate. The settlement, one of the most important in all Etruria, grew up and prospered along one of the main travel and trade routes that ran from the Etruscan coastal cities to those located further inland.
Archaeological research at Poggio Civitate, ongoing even today, was initiated by an American team in the 1960s, thanks to the support and backing of Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli. Construction of the palace occurred in two distinct phases, traceable to the Orientalizing Period (7th century B.C.) and to the Archaic Period (6th century B.C.). Excavations there marked a turning point in our knowledge of Etruscan residential architecture. Especially enlightening was the discovery of terracotta artifacts used in the covering and decoration of roofs (acroteria, slabs, dripstones, antefixes), which provided valuable information regarding both the techniques and the ideology of those in power during that era.
The first floor of the museum houses a great number of skilfully crafted artifacts, some of them imported from other Etruscan cities or from Greece, illustrating the most salient aspects of daily life, from banquets to personal body-care. On the same floor is a section dedicated to the great crafts workshop discovered in the immediate vicinity of the princely palace, where artisans created precious, highly refined objects in ceramic, bronze, ivory and bone.
The second floor is dedicated to the famous remains of the architectural decoration of the palace. Here there is the reconstruction of a portion of the roof, surmounted with extraordinary terracotta statues dating from the beginning of the 6th century B.C., and adorned with fictile slabs which, originally positioned so as to form a frieze running under the pitch, depict a banquet, an assembly, a procession, and horse races. Noteworthy among the acroterial statues is the famous “Cappellone” (He of the Large Hat) who has become the symbol of the museum in Murlo: a truly unique seated male figure with a long squared-off beard, wearing a hat with a wide, raised brim and a high, pointed crown.
Along with an array of objects used in daily life, primarily for cooking and serving food, the third floorhouses one-of-a-kind artifacts in bucchero and several small models in bronze. The visit ends with a section devoted to exhibits of burial furnishings considered to be among the most significant finds from the nearby Necropolis of Poggio Aguzzo.
The museum is equipped with a restoration laboratory, and conferences, exhibitions and seminars are held periodically on art and on ancient crafts such as goldwork, bronzework, and the modelling of coroplastic figures.