The etruscan temple at Torraccia di Chiusi

It was right at Torraccia di Chiusi that the ” San Gimignano Shadow” was found.

  That’s the most important archaeological discovery of the Etruscan era in Tuscany in recent years, someone … said … the most important of the century! Hinthial is a  wonderful votive bronze statue of a teenage bidder, dating back to the first half of the third century. B.C. adventurously discovered in the property during repairs to the sewage treatment plant.

During repairs to the sewage treatment plant, Donatella Sandrelli, the owner of the estate, noted imperceptible  bright green traces in the loam moved by the bulldozer: unmistakable indication of oxidated bronze. She was well aware of this, as always very fond of archeology. Her archeological proficiency immediately triggered a thought in her and she suddenly shouted: “Stop the bulldozer!”. Thank God! She abruptely dropped in the pit and began digging with her bare hands: here first emerged the face, then the shoulders and at the end the whole body of this wonderful Etruscan statue in perfect condition.

  Later, that wonderful Etruscan bronze was”baptized” Hinthial l’Ombra di San Gimignano. by the Inspector of the Superintendency Dr. Jacopo Tabolli, who curated the exhibition together with Dr. Enrico Maria Giuffrè at the archaeological museum of San Gimignano, where the statue is kept right now.

 Actually, in the Etruscan language Hinthial means both soul and sacred, holy, and therefore  this finely made young male figure discloses this meaning so exemplary, that it is one of a kind.

The excavation (care of Siena Superintendency) has revealed an Etruscan place of worship frequented for more than five centuries, fom the third century b.C. to the second century a.C. The significance of the discovery was immediately plain. At moment, experts speculate that the site was an outdoor temple (“templum sub divo”, in Latin). Hinthial was buried near a quadrangular plinth, perhaps an altar, on which religious rites were performed with the deposition of offerings dedicated to local divinities. Scads of bronze and silver Etruscan and Roman coins were also discovered in the nearby with plenty of pottery sherds, particularly small piriform shaped vases which held sacred ointments used to spinkle the statue.

Hinthial’s very elongated shape is typical of the Ellenistic bronze craftamanship in Etruria and the founding masters of the city of Volterra were the best in this kind. Torraccia’s statue is definitely similar to the very famous Ombra della Sera, so named by the Italian poet D’Annunzio, preserved in the Guarnacci Muesum in Volterra. Torraccia’s statue is comparatevely more ancient and all experts agree it is a real masterpiece in the series of Etruscan bronzes of its kind (more or less twenty pieces known). While Ombra della Sera represents a naked infant as a bidder, our Ombra di San Gimignano depicts a teenage bidder wearing “toga exigua” (Latin): a suit worn by citizens for public events. The unknown craftman who made the Ombra di San Gimignano came from the ancient Etruscan city of Volterra (“Velathri” in Etruscan language). The sanctuary discovered in Torraccia di Chiusi was indeed one of the borders post on the ancient city boundaries: the name of the river flowing in the valley beyond the estate is nowadays Fosci, experts suggest the name could originated from the Latin word “fauces”(= exit). The meaning is that the valley was an exit from the territory of the city of Volterra in Etruscan times.

The typical elongated shape of the Etruscan votive statuary finds its reason in the clients’ will to highlight the richness of their offers both in the presence of the divinity and in front of the sanctuary worshippers. Therefore it was the amount of bronze used for the making of the statue worthwhile (in our statue it was spent more than three Kg of bronze).

 Like the elongated statue of Volterra, the Shadow of San Gimignano also belongs to a serial production of models that spread from the third century BC. in north-central Etruria.

 Hinthial holds in right hand a “patera umbilicata”(Latin) that was a bowl used in religious rites to pour down holy water or wine.

The left is close to the body and comes out of the mantle with the palm facing outwards in a devotional pose; her legs are slightly apart to suggest a slight movement to the left.


The features of her face are well marked, with large eyes, a prominent nose, a fleshy mouth and a chin with a typical central dimple. His hair is arranged in wavy locks, made with deep furrows that from a rear scri-mination are arranged towards the face to cover part of the forehead and ears.

 The sanctuary of Torraccia di Chiusi was near a spring, in a wooded valley that is still very rich in spring waters and suggestive waterfalls, so it could be hypothesized that it was dedicated to divinitiesrelated to water and land. In fact, many ancient peoples attributed great saving and health properties to water. Could our site therefore have been an ancient sacred grove consecrated to the goddess Urcla, personification of water itself? Or to Selvans, God of the forests?


Hypothesis to prove but certainly not too far from a hypothetical reality, in fact for the Etruscans the springs and the woods were sacred places, a wonderful and powerful manifestation of the divinities of Nature. Many necropolises stood near a stream, even of small dimensions, and in any case a stream almost always separated the city of the living from the main necropolises, creating a sort of sacred barrier, a “watershed” between two di- opposite but complementary dimensions of human existence: life and death.



Comments by Mrs. Donatella Sandrelli, the discoverer of bronze staue.



In link below Dr. archaeologist Jacopo Tabolli, responsible  of Siena Superintendence, curator of the exhibition with Dr. archaeologist of Siena Superintendence  Enrico Maria Giuffrè: