Overview of the Etruscan Pyramid of Bomarzo
Overview of the Etruscan Pyramid of Bomarzo

Facing the mistery: the Etruscan Pyramid of Bomarzo

We look at the Etruscan Pyramid of Bomarzo and we cannot find a focal point. There is no “center”, a sort of dumbness is the first reaction of our brain. It looks us that the constructors were inspired by a totally different logic. The lines of the pyramid compose a no-sense world, a no meaning pattern, a design out of the world of cause and effect.

Bomarzo is a small middle age village 90 kilometers North of Rome, right in the middle of what once was the core of a forest sacred to Etruscan. Very unusual archaeological remains has been discovered here. Common people call it Etruscan Pyramid of Bomarzo but it is not a pyramid, and it is not clear who made it. Official science is still silent, thus, archaeology amateurs and mystery lovers got a fertile ground to imagine human sacrifices and secret rituals.

Overview of the town of Bomarzo. THe Etruscan Pyramid of Bomarzo is half an hour by foot from the city center. Picture courtesy of Marcos Méndez Filesi
The town of Bomarzo, courtesy of Marcos Méndez Filesi

Etruscan civilization endured from around 700 BCE until 280 BCE, when it fell under the Romans. Bomarzo is located in the core of what was their territory. It corresponded roughly to the present days Tuscany, Umbria, and northern Lazio. Etruscan were excellent artists, sailors, traders, and warriors, ancient literature remember them especially as masters in the art of divination and witchcraft. This fact, the mystery of their origin, and the little knowledge of their language, contributed to surround this civilization with a halo of legend. Thus, when locals of Bomarzo discovered the Pyramid few years ago, everybody thought it was a sacred place, a temple made by Etruscan to celebrate strange forgotten rituals.

Overview on the landscape sorrounding the Etruscan Pyramid of Bomarzo
On the way to the Pyramid

The Etruscan Pyramid of Bomarzo is hidden in a wide gorge, half an hour by foot from the county road SP 20, that links Bomarzo with the motorway A1 and the rest of the civilized world. A forest of holly oaks overflows the gorge. Etruscan considered this tree as a sacred plant, they gave it significance of abundance and prosperity.

A small path leave the SP 20 to follow the edge of the gorge, the eyes fly in a wide landscape of mountains trees as waves of a green sea. Shortly after the path turn down and goes right into the gorge, flowing between big mossy rocks and trees till it get a high rock face, cut by several long cracks. The path turns gently at the end of the rock face and rounds a flat ground to create a sort of natural amphitheater invaded by trees and liane. We arrived. The place has no comparisons, it is hard describe it with words.

View from west of the so called Etruscan Pyramid of Bomarzo
View from west

A carved volcanic tuff rock measuring 8 x 16 meters rises from the wood. It resembles a truncated pyramid oriented to North. The pyramid is nested in a bigger boulder, 2/3 of the whole structure is still underground. The southern side was roughly worked into two levels, the other sides are almost untouched.

A layer of thick bright moss covers the rock, the air is wet, there is a strong smell of plants and trees around. The silence is perfect. We get closer to the rock staring at the strangeness we face. The Etruscan Pyramid of Bomarzo looks as emerging from the earth. It was not built: unknown people only underlined with their hands what the nature offered them, for reasons we cannot understand anymore. We slowly climb the pyramids.

Close up of the 26 steps stair of the so called Etruscan Pyramid of Bomarzo - This work by https://ontravelwriting.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Close up of the 26 steps stair

On the left edge’s rock a 26 steps stair leads to the first level. There is an asymmetric pattern of square holes along the stair, maybe to place poles in order to hold an upper wooden structure. Some steps were extended on the whole length of the rock. This first level is almost entirely occupied by two “compartments” opened to the front side.

Left side of the first level of the Etruscan Pyramid of Bomarzo
Left side of the first level

The left compartment has a sort of bench, whereas the right compartment presents a series of small benches on the right wall. A second stair of 8 steps, leading to the upper level, divides the two compartments. There is a bigger rectangular hole with a line of smaller round holes at its bottom, and two small round holes and a gutter after the last upper step.

Second and smaller stair of the Etruscan Pyramid of Bomarzo. Licensed under a Creative commons 4.0
Second stair

The upper level is smaller and flat. There is a low wall on the right, a rectangular recess in the center of the floor, and a low basement on the left. Several gutters were carved in different points of the rock. Some amateurs argued that they had the purpouse to drain out liquid during sacrifices, but a careful observation makes us doubt. They run without an apparent logic, often they stop suddenly somewhere within the limit of the structure and could not drain out liquids.

 

View of the cave besides the Etruscan Pyramid
View of the cave

Few meters away from the right side of the Pyramid, there is a small triangular natural cave.  It present few holes and a little stair of three steps. The top of a smaller structure with trace of human work, comes out from the ground. This smaller area, the cave described above, and the fact that part of the pyramid is still underground could prove that what we see is part of a bigger “sanctuary”.

What first call the attention in the Etruscan Pyramid of Bomarzo is the irregularity of the structures. There is no symmetry and no regular pattern, no balance. It looks they did not pay much attention to the quality of the work. Steps and compartments have different height, width, and inclination. It looks much more primitive compares to the Estruscan craft.

View from North East of the so called Etruscan Pyramid of Bomarzo - This work by https://ontravelwriting.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
View from North

The irregularity plays a trick to the mind. We look at the Etruscan Pyramid of Bomarzo and we cannot find a focal point. There is no “center”, a sort of dumbness is the first reaction of our brain. It looks us that the constructors were inspired by a different logic. The lines of the pyramid compose a no-sense world, a no meaning pattern, a design out of cause and effect.

Sounds are an interesting characteristic of the place. If you speak from the bottom of the pyramid the voice is perfectly listened on the top as the speaker where besides you. The pyramid is like a “cavea” of an amphitheater. Somebody argued that “ceremonies” took place at the bottom of the Pyramids, thus the structure is a sort of theater, but it could be an unwanted characteristic coming from the natural environment.

The place does not occupy a strategic position in the area. It is hard to imagine a use different from religious but it is still unclear which kind of rituals were held here. All the hypothesis can be done at this stage. The place has not been properly investigated. Some archaeologist from the University La Sapienza of Rome visited the area, but no excavation took place. Mystery still wraps the Etruscan Pyramid of Bomarzo.

We can release our imagination to step into the realm of the wonders, and look for hidden secrets. Human sacrifices, cold clear night watching at the stars to try to understand the will of the goddess, ancient dances and rituals enlightening the soul of a forgotten civilization. Everything could be here: the site is open air, there are no fences, signs, or time schedule. You can sit, alone, and let the mind dreams of an older age and get lost into the game of the history.

Etruscan Pyramid of Bomarzo Photogallery

Leandro Perez Zambullo

A bird took my father, and my mother married a fish. I was born one leg in the air, one in the water was. That day sea and wind pulled so hard, that in two broke my chest. My heart fell in a well, and when I want to know who I am, I have to drink a lot.
I am Leandro, content writer at OTW.

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