ROME— Archaeologists in Italy have found more than two dozen beautifully preserved bronze statues dating back to ancient Roman times in thermal baths in Tuscany, in what experts are hailing as an “exceptional” discovery.
The statues were found over the last two weeks in San Casciano dei Bagni, a hilltop town about 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Rome where archaeologists have been exploring ancient ruins for the last three years.
“It is a very significant, exceptional finding,” Jacopo Tabolli, an assistant professor from the University for Foreigners in Siena who is leading the archaeological project, told Reuters on Tuesday.
Tabolli said the statues — which according to Italy’s ANSA news agency are 2,300 years old — used to adorn a sanctuary before they were immersed in thermal waters, in a sort of ritual, “probably around the 1st century AD.”
“You give to the water because you hope that the water gives something back to you,” he said of the ritual.
Italian Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano also hailed the find which he said should provide a further boost to tourism.
“This is an exceptional discovery which confirms once again that Italy is a country of immense and unique treasures,” he said in a statement.
The statues were covered by almost 6,000 bronze, silver and gold coins, and San Casciano’s hot waters helped to preserve them “almost like as on the day they were immersed,” Tabolli said.
The archaeologist, an expert in Etruscology and Italic Archaeology, said his team found 24 large statues, plus several smaller statuettes, and noted that it was unusual for them to be made out of bronze, rather than terracotta.
Tabelli said this suggested they came from what he called an elite settlement.
According to ANSA, which first reported on the discovery, the statues have been taken to a restoration laboratory in Grosseto, another town in Tuscany, but will eventually be returned to San Casciano dei Bagni to be displayed in a new museum.
—Reporting by Alvise ArmelliniEditing by Keith Weir