The Civic Archaeological Museum of Sarteano is located in the 16th-century Palazzo Gabrielli, a few short steps from the town’s main square. Its collection includes materials gathered from numerous Etruscan necropolises within the local area, covering a time span from the 9th to the 1st century B.C.
Visits to the museum begin with artifacts from the well-shaped tombs of Sferracavalli and from the tombs of Poggio Rotondo, including a collection of magnificent canopic jars, that is, human-shaped cinerary urns. One particularly fine example shows a woman on a throne, clutching an axe as a symbol of power. On display in the third room is an elegant memorial stone in pietra fetida (limestone typical of the area) from the locality of Sant’Angelo, showing scenes from an Etruscan funeral ceremony, and painted ceramics from the 5th and 6th centuries B.C. unearthed at the Necropolis of Palazzina.
The entire lower floor was recently expanded to house new finds from the Necropolis of Le Pianacce, with a room devoted entirely to the life-size reconstruction of the extraordinary painted tomb from the 4th century B.C. known as the Infernal Quadriga (four-horse chariot), the picture cycle of which counts as one of the most significant in all Etruscan art, showing exceptionally original scenes connected to an imaginary vision of the Afterlife. Indeed, a truly “infernal” journey was believed to await the spirits of the dead during their final crossing to the Great Beyond, through a realm inhabited by monstrous animals and demons. The leading figure in the fresco is Charun, the Etruscan counterpart to the Greek Charon. His hair aflame and a wild glare in his eyes, he is shown steering the infernal chariot that is pulled by two lions and two griffins.
Visitors can thus immerse themselves in the strange atmosphere of this exceptional monument which, for the sake of conservation, may be visited only once a week. The tomb is situated 1 km. from Sarteano in the area of the Necropolis of Le Pianacce surrounded by extraordinarily beautiful countryside.
The museum also contains numerous sculputures in pietra fetida limestone, including an exceptional cinerary group with the deceased and the demon Vanth, a male cinerary statue, and memorial stones-ossuaries with refined decorations in relief, along with Attican ceramics and luxurious articles showing the wealth of the aristocratic families of the area from the 6th to the 2nd century B.C.