1. Gold Etruscan earrings found inside a coffin.

Etruscans on Corsica

INRAP (Institut national de recherches archéologiques préventives) archaeologists, who have been working on the site of an Etruscan and Roman necropolis near the ancient city of Aléria-Lamajone on the island of Corsica for some time, have excavated a hypogeum (an underground burial chamber) which could shed more light on the Etruscan presence in Corsica.

The necropolis, which extends over one hectare is in an exceptionally good state of conservation, especially as soil acidity in Corsica destroys most bones. There is evidence of different funerary practices: burials in pits, in studded wooden and stone coffins, and on funeral pyres. Grave goods found – jewellery, including a pair of gold earrings (1), ornaments and around 100 unbroken vases, from the 3rd century BC to the 3rd century AD – all indicate their owners' high social ranking.

2. Steps down to a six-metre corridor lead to the hypogeum (underground burial chamber).

The discovery of a hypogeum on French territory is unusual, the first of its kind in over 40 years. These burial chambers that were dug into the rock, were reserved for high-ranking individuals. A flight of steps (2) and a six-metre-long corridor lead down to a still intact rectangular chamber two metres underground. Its entrance, which was sealed with a mixture of clay, pottery sherds, charcoal and stones, had been opened and re-sealed several times, perhaps to add offerings and extra bodies.

One skull and several artefacts have been found: three black varnished bowls, the handle of what was probably an oenochoe (wine-jug) and two skyphoi (deep drinking goblets with large handles). Based on grave goods already unearthed and dated, these finds indicate that the tomb is from the 4th century BC.

On the trade route between Liguria and southern France, Corsica also attracted Greek and Carthaginian traders. The island's eastern side came under Etruscan influence and, between 500 BC–AD 259, when the Romans conquered Corsica, there was a stable Etruscan population at Aléria.

Excavation has already brought to light the exceptional site of Casabianda with its necropolis revealing one of the richest Etruscan funerary ensembles found outside Italy. Some of its finds are in the Aléria site museum. The Aléria-Lamajone necropolis will shed further light on Etruscan culture.

• (www.inrap.fr/en/discovery-etruscan-tomb-hypogeum-aleria-corsica-14210) Nicole Benazeth