Baratti and Populonia Archaeological Park

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The Baratti and Populonia Archaeological Park extends over 80 hectares from the slopes of the Piombino headland to the Gulf of Baratti. History and archaeology coexist in a beautiful, unspoilt landscape there, where Etruscan and Roman tombs and buildings emerge from the Mediterranean scrub against a clear, blue backdrop. Populonia, one of the main Etruscan cities and the only coastal one, controlled the sea from Poggio di Castello. The “industrial” districts lay around the Gulf of Baratti, near the harbour. Its territory in ancient times included the hills which surround the gulf and extend as far south as the Piombino headland before sloping towards the hinterland to a wide plain bound by the Campiglia hills, which, together with the Isle of Elba, were rich in mineral resources and had been exploited since the Neolithic age. The city was created by the fusion of several Iron Age villages, each of which had its own necropolis, with well, sarcophagus and chamber tombs. The latter was covered with a false cupola and external tumulus and contained personal objects, pottery and arms, some of which arrived by sea from Sardinia. The richest tombs document the economic and social rise of several families, a phenomenon that became most evident in the VII century. In sumptuous monumental burial mounds with quadrangular funerary chambers, the deceased were laid on stone beds together with a wealth of paraphernalia, including objects for toiletry, banquets, ceremonies and parades. Some of these were locally produced (bronze utensils, bucchero vases), some imported in Greek ships (Phoenician tripod plates, vases from Greece and the East, etc.)

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In the V century BC, the city was one of the most important iron working centres of the ancient world. Minerals and metals were exported from its port, and valuable goods arrived from around the Mediterranean. Massive walls protected the town and acropolis. The “industrial” quarters around the Gulf of Baratti spread out and covered the necropolis of earlier centuries, and the piles of slag still found on long stretches of the beach are evidence of the extent of the ironworks. Populonia’s ironworks went into a decline in Roman times, probably because of a law, which forbade such activities on the Italian peninsula. Sailors saw a city reduced to a handful of houses and a few temples at the beginning of 1 AD, only the area around the harbour was still lively. The villas of the wealthy began to appear along the coast. The harbour and town buildings near the shore have been submerged by a rise in sea level and changes in the coastal area’s geomorphology, but Populonia’s important role in the Mediterranean is evident from the numerous ancient wrecks found in the waters opposite and by significant underwater finds of important artefacts. Life continued in late-ancient and medieval times; the city was a bishopric, and a medieval settlement rose in the area of the present village.

 

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