Etruscan and Italic Studies
Journal of the Etruscan Foundation
Editor-in-Chief: Meyers, Gretchen E.
New Considerations Regarding the Seascape Fresco in the Tomb of the Ship (Tomba della Nave) at Tarquinia
The Tomb of the Ship ( Tomba della Nave) in Tarquinia, which dates between the middle and third quarter of the fifth century BCE, is not only important for the evidence it provides on ancient naval construction and navigation, but also because it augments our understanding of the criteria used to create the harmonious compositions found in many of the Etruscans’ painted chamber tombs. One of its frescoed walls displays, in the context of a seascape, a detailed representation of a large two-masted olkas or cargo ship. The latter can be compared to the Grand Ribaud F wreck, a commercial ship of possible Etruscan (specifically Caeretan) origin dated between the sixth and fifth century BCE, and may represent a vessel that belonged to a wealthy Etruscan merchant, possibly even the owner of the tomb himself. If so, it may celebrate both his social status and role in the field of maritime trade, especially since the vessel is shown at rest, in a harbor. The seascape also contains a number of painted and incised lines whose position, color, relationship with other lines in the painting, and distance from the lower edge of the painted wall, suggest that the painter used them to achieve compositional unity within the tomb as a whole. Evidence of a repeated measurement varying between 16 and 18 cm further implies the use of a grid or modular pattern which may be based on the Attic-Cycladic or Ionian- Samian foot.