Bronze cinerary urn with lid

Period: Archaic

Date: ca. 500 B.C.

Culture: Etruscan, Campanian

Medium: Bronze

Dimensions: H. 19 1/16 in. (48.5 cm)

Classification: Bronzes

Credit Line: Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1940

Accession Number: 40.11.3a, b


Large hammered-bronze urns, often with solid-cast figures on the lid, were frequently used for cremated remains in Etruscan-dominated Campania. The statuettes added to the lid of this elaborately incised urn show a large nude diskos thrower surrounded by four Scythian archers mounted on rearing horses. While now missing, they may have held bows in a perishable material such as wood.
On the underside of the urn, a two-letter inscription is engraved on the attached foot ring. It comprises two Etruscan characters: a khi (which looks like a V with a line in the center), and a V. The khi is in a late Etruscan letter form that is appropriate for the urn's date. Since the Etruscans, like the Greeks, used letters of the alphabet as numerals, the two characters probably stand for the number 55. Their significance remains unclear, but they could indicate price, ownership, or even a manufacturer's mark.