Populonia towers over Baratti bay, the combination making this one of the idyllic places along Tuscany’s Tyrrhenian coastline. A breath-taking transformation has turned Baratti bay and its Etruscan acropolis into one of the most magical of places. The removal of the 19th-century iron works and piers in Baratti bay was a masterstroke. Now immaculately spruced up, today it is a marina with a narrow strip of sand and a small but significant Etruscan cemetery. I have come to see a recent discovery found on the shoreline in excavations in 2015, and now given pride of place in the elegant Gasparri museum in the beating heart of the borgo of Populonia castle.
Baratti bay where Baratti excavates
The discovery could not be more different from the marble and travertine tombs of Etruria . Underneath a 4th-5th-century inhumation close to the beach, where iron from the Colline Metalliferre was smelted then embarked on ships for all parts of the Mediterranean, an anonymous individual was discovered. He dates to the earliest Etruscan era – approximately the 7th century BC - was 1.8 metres tall and aged between 35-40 years. In his anonymity he was extraordinary: around his ankles were shackles presumably tied an iron collar around his neck. Clearly this giant was a slave who travelled into the afterlife chained as he was in this world.
The Baratti slave
This solitary individual is a poignant reminder in an elegant museum of the harsh realities of the Etruscan epoch. Alongside the nobility of Baratti’s mausolea for Populonia’s families were shallow graves for un-named individuals whose metal shackles were not deemed worthy of reuse.
Detail the Baratti slave