Last year, archeologists unearthed a treasure trove of bronze statues in the small town of San Casciano dei Bagni in Tuscany. These statues were buried in mud and boiling water for thousands of years in the ruins of some ancient thermal springs. Now, they’re making their grand debut in Rome.
The collection of 24 bronzes, primarily dedicated to the gods, is the most extensive discovery of its kind in Italy. (The statues were likely commissioned by affluent families living in the area.) They include a figure of Hygeia, the goddess of health, and one dedicated to Apollo, the god of sun and light.
One of the most remarkable finds was a bronze statue of a young Roman boy named “Marcius Grabillo”. The statue, about 90 cm high, depicts a young boy with an apparent bone disease. Initially, when the statue was partially covered in mud, it was thought to be of an athlete, but once cleaned, it was clear that it was a depiction of a sick person.
The exhibition, titled ‘Gli Dei Ritornano’ (The Gods Return), will be on display at Palazzo Quirinale from June 23, 2023 until July 25, 2023, and from September 2, 2023 until October 29, 2023.
The discovery of these ancient bronze statues was not just the result of professional archaeologists’ work but also the intuition of a retired garbage man, Stefano Petrini. He had a hunch about a particular spot in the village, remembering that he had seen bits of ancient Roman columns there years earlier. When he took archaeologists to the location, they knew they had found the right spot.
These statues once adorned the rim of the oval-shaped baths before being immersed into the water in a spiritual ceremony believed to have occurred in the first century AD. The shrine where these statues were found was sealed at the beginning of the 5th century AD when the ancient spa complex was abandoned. This left the statues preserved for centuries by the warm mud of the baths.
Eventually, these relics will find a permanent home in a museum being developed in San Casciano dei Bagni, a hilltop town near Siena. Other discoveries at the ancient springs include 6,000 coins and an array of votives.