We continue our Physical and Metaphysical journey through this magnificent ancient town in part 3 of Psychic Archaeology travel series featuring Sandie LaNae.
I wasn’t clear as to what types of echoes Sandie heard that would help clarify the area she was in…echoes from the stone wall buildings? Or echoes from shouting in the ravines below? I asked her to elaborate on this….and it turned out be neither what I expected. She told me:
If I had to describe the echos, it would be that I was in an enclosed cave… the acoustics would be like that of an enclosed chamber of a cave, I can safely say the muffled echoes were heard underground, in a cave or catacomb area.
That helped rule out the other possibilities. I learned that caves, natural and man made, have been discovered along the valleys around Monterano….some ancient ones bringing to light evidence of pre-historic human activity with findings of flint blades and arrowheads.
During the early middle ages, it’s been discovered that inhabitants dug up underground places and caves right into the tuffa cliffs….possibly as summertime hermitages.
Of course, mining for minerals, especially sulfur, has taken place in this region throughout the centuries until early 1900’s, creating additional underground caves and tunnels….these mines have been shut down in the 1930’s.
However, there ARE some underground places I want to show you. The Etruscan era reveals some fascinating underground tombs scattered at the base of Monterano.
We’re back at the entrance from where we started, where you find a series of Etruscan burial tombs that have been excavated.
Catacombs – defined as underground cemeteries – have been closely associated by name with ancient Christian catacombs dating back to 2nd century AD, carved through the tufa ground in areas in the outskirts of Rome as ancient Roman laws prohibited burials inside the city limits.
The Etruscan burial tombs, the precursors to the Christian catacombs, were also built underground, quarried into the same soft tufa rock. The Etruscans practiced both inhumation and cremation, the Romans on the other hand, only cremated the dead, and the remains were preserved inside a type of urn….and the Christian always buried the dead.
The Tufa rock is soft and easily carved into, making it an ideal stone to carve out room-size tombs for the dead. Etruscans had deep fascination with the afterlife, much like the ancient Egyptians, with the body’s continuation into the afterlife and its need of the possessions that accompanied the living human during his earthy life.
This brings up the question…..who were the Etruscans?
To may the Etruscans are still a mysterious civilization in that we aren’t sure exactly where they came from, although suspected they came from Asia Minor, and their alphabet is still not entirely deciphered, or language understood. However, many of their inventions, engineering advancements and even mythologies have survived much longer than their civilization…in fact, we are familiar with many of them today!
Many of the things we have today in the Western World or we attribute to the Romans were actually Etruscan inventions, for example: Togas, spectator sports including boxing, wrestling and gladiatorial fights, architectural Arches, gold jewelry, domestic utensils, mythological winged figures, Sewage Systems, irrigation devices, and complex roads, just to name a few.
The Romans not only absorbed the Etruscan population during its expansionist campaigns, but their advanced culture and knowledge as well.
During the early days of the Etruscan civilization, the deceased were usually cremated and the remains placed in urns in the shape of a house or a different representation of the deceased. But as the civilization advanced, so did their funerary practices.
What’s fascinating about the Etruscan tombs, which can be explored further in depth in nearby Baditaccia necropolis in Cerveteri, is how their tombs – sometimes elaborate with multiple chambers – imitating domestic structures inhabited by the deceased including faux wooden ceiling and beams, and furnishing the tombs with stone carved beds for the deceased and other furnishings.. and quite often weapons, food, jewelry and other precious personal items.
It’s been largely through the treasures buried in these tombs – which are now exhibited in museums throughout Italy – that archaeologists and historians were able to find out as much as they do about this mysterious and yet highly advanced ancient civilization.
Here in Monterano, you too can enter and explore some of these Etruscan tombs…although more modest than the ones mentioned in Cerverteri and Tarquinia.
It’s a bit stuffy in here…damp…
Volcanic rocks are quite permeable, making buildings made with tufa damp during wet season. The Umbrian town of Orvieto is largely built of tufa, and residents have complained about the dampness they feel during the cold wet seasons.
As you look around you at the hills and valleys that surround the plateau on which the Ghost Town of Monterano stands, you will notice that we’re quite elevated – about 1,000 feet on top of a cliff. Climate here is described as mild with hot and humid summers and winters. The porous Tufa chambers, caves, tunnels, or tombs, combined with high humidity of this area, can make the air stuffy and heavy.
.Was this an area where prisoners were once kept or held? It seems like I feel people waiting, I feel they’re anxious as to they want to get out. Well….um…..I don’t see any prisons here….or any ruins of anything that could’ve been a prison. Hmmm…. There are no signs or any records I found identifying any of these ruins as actual prisons. But surely….during Monterano’s tumultuous and often violent history people were imprisoned or held captive. And many felt they wanted to escape from prison, or get outta here for any number of reasons. .
But…I did find out a visit was made to Monterano by some clergy in 1776, and although the existence of a prison on the premises was documented, the prison itself was reported t be void of prisoners and guards. Furthermore, the prison was described as being in decrepit condition, decaying from humidity and buried in garbage.
This leads me to the next question….
Why would there not be enough people in Monterano to make use of the local prison in late 1770’s? Certainly a thriving community under the lordship of the powerful and wealthy Altieri family existed here, and surely there were some prison worthy people around here.
Well, 1770 marked the beginning of the end of a settlement that had been in existence here for thousands of years.