--Montovolo Retreat 10 (versione in italiano)


The Symbolic Meaning of the Oval Stone and of the Egg in the Etruscan Religion

By Graziano Baccolini


My first researches about Montovolo begun observing on the lunette of the Sanctuary of this mountain the images of the two doves, of a lily and of a cross inscribed in a circle and from these images I realised that this place can have been an Etruscan sacred mountain or an oracular center risen to similarity of Delphi. Subsequently other discovered data, as the fountain of Cantalia at Montovolo very similar to the fountain of Castalia at Delphi, with the same typology and the almost equal name have shown that my hypothesis may be true and therefore the name of Montovolo may also mean Mountain of the Egg or of the Oval stone.

This stone with the shape of an egg was a known religious symbol for archaic cultures that we find it again to Delphi and in almost all the oracular centers around the Mediterranean area. The symbol of the cosmic egg from which the universe was born was reported in archaic myths as the pelasicis and it is connected to the mythical Mother Goddess. These connections between Montovolo, an Etruscan oracular center, Delphi and the egg as symbol of all the archaic civilizations, brought me to realize that the stones with egg shape on the Tombs of the Etruscan necropolis of Marzabotto were not simple cippis, tombís segnacolum (signal) as reported by all the Academic and the most famous Etruscologists, as Pallottino, but these oval stones were Etruscan important religious symbols, indicating the egg, symbol of rebirth , and that therefore they can be connected to the symbol of the presumed oval stone, omphalos, of Montovolo. Subsequently, I have found at the Etruscan museum of Marzabotto three oval stones with engraved on the point a cross inscribed in the circle as the cross of Montovolo. Then I have understood that also the Cross was another important Etruscan symbol indicating the divinity . But the proof that removes every doubt on the connection between Montovolo and the Etruscan city of Marzabotto, is the figure of a lily found engraved on one of these oval stones. After this apparent strange mental run that I have done following all the evidence, I realised that an oval stone have to be set on all the Etruscan tombs also in other necropolis as in Marzabotto! But now many of these Etruscan oval stones have gone lost because they were considered by all the researchers simple cippus or pebbles. It was necessary to look for their traces. I found again these oval stones in old photos, then looking for in Museums I have found many of them and the most common stones in angles of the Museum garden, and even in private gardens like ornaments . For me it was amazing, and alsoÖ disheartening thinking how many of these oval stones with engraved symbols have been lost and how many were deliberately destroyed!!

After all this, I have begun to observe more attentively all the photos of the catalogs of the several Expositions on Etruscans that reproduced jewels, frescos, vases, terrecotte and, above all, I have revisited the beautiful Tombs of Tarquinia with the famous frescos. As for enchantment I have seen a new Etruscan world till now unknown. Really the mysterious charm of their symbolism is a vision of life as religion of the whole universe. To Etruscans all was alive and the whole universe lived; and the business of a man was himself to live amid it all. It is the vision of the whole cosmos like a vast creature where the man is a fundamental part of this living universe that is also immortal because can be regenerated. After death there is the rebirth to a new life! The image of the egg, found in several tombs, was a wish of rebirth and perhaps also a certainty of a new life! With the Etruscan, as well as the Egypthians and the Sumerians there were no personal gods, but only symbols such as the Egg. This recurrent image of the egg as religious symbol (now many of these eggs are underestimated or even not identified by the most Etruscologists) gives a deep meaning to all the scenes of the banquet reproduced on the walls of many tombs! Theirs certainty of rebirth also gave joy to this final banquet to go toward the light, new life and rebirth.

During the excavations of hundreds of tombs, thousands of eggs or their imitations have been destroyed because considered from the researchers rests of funeral lunches without any symbolic value. The numerous ostrich eggs decorated elegantly found in several necropolis as at Vulci, exposed now at British Museum, are considered by historians only rich ornaments without any religious or symbolic meaning! I remain astonished to see as eminent scholars have made this mistake! I am amazed that academic historians1 knowing very well these recurrent images of the eggs in the Tombís frescos, or of ostrich eggs and other animals found in almost all the etruscan tombs, have not connected all this to the archaic symbol of the egg, symbol of rebirth and connected to the Mother Goddess. Knowing all this, these scholars have not connected the oval stones on the tomb to the egg symbol, but all have defined them simple cippis without any symbolic value!

When, four years ago, I have done my first hypotheses about Montovolo I didn't know the egg symbolism . I am a professor of Chemistry that only in the last years is devoted, during the vacations, to search on the Etruschan civilization ! If I had known this egg symbolism I would not have had any doubt about my theory on the significance of the oval Stone. There was not need to seek and to find those correlations that I have found on Montovolo and Delphi and to follow the way that the found connections imposed me! When we use the scientific method all the roads bring to truth!

This truth is that the image of the egg, that we also find in the oval stones on the Etruscan Tombs or in the frescos, was an important symbol of the archaic Etruscan religion as in Mesopothamic civilizations and this links the Etruscans , in clear manner, to these very ancient oriental civilizations.

The first of the Tarquinia's Tomb I have revisited is the famous Tomba dei Tori which I have reported in my precedent Web page where I have noted that the so-called decoration of the border pattern, defined by Lawrence the sign of Venus, a ball surmounted by a little cross, is in effect the oval stone with the cross which was put on the tombs, as found at the necropolis of Marzabotto and the similar balls underlying were the egg-shaped stones with the cross that were set under earth during the foundation Rite of an Etruscan city. These foundation stones have also been recovered at Marzabotto (see figure below)! Now, after having disclosed this symbolism, the whole scene of the Tomba dei Tori it takes a different and very simple meaning. It is a representation of the three worlds. In that celestial we see the pedestal or altar that supports all the sky with the ramís heads probably indicating the Era of the Aries in which the Etruschans lived. The median part of the fresco represents the terrestrial world of Etruscans. They are not conditioned, as we are now, by false Christian morality, consequently they see sexual exhibitions as the best possible representation of terrestrial life .The figures of the two bulls or, more probable, of the bull and his calm female might represent as well life on earth.

The scene of the inferior part represents the underworld where the soul generally is represented coming on a horse without saddle. The other symbols like the tree of life that is tied from a scarf to the tree of death, are a clear confirmation that this is the underworld.

(See my Web page)

Now, I want to report some images of the other Tombs of Tarquinia at Monterozzi Necropolis, also quoting descriptions of D.H. Lawrence that, with the intuition of an artist was seen in the many oval cippus, considered phallic symbols, and in the eggs two different symbolic meanings which I have , motivating it, given only a meaning, the rebirth and regeneration to new life!

The Tomba dei Tori ( the Tomb of the Bulls)

The Tomba dei Leopardi (The Tomb of the Leopards )

The Tomba delle Leonesse (The Tomb of the Lioness )

The Tomba degli Scudi (The Tomb of the Shields )

The Tomba della Pulcella


1)I should be noted that in the recent text of the M. Pallottino, Etruscologia, in the chapter Etruscan Religion, as in all the books that I have read of others famous Italian Etruscologists, it is never reported the possibility of the egg symbolism and it doesn't even appear ever the word egg! Such possibility of the symbol of the egg in the Etruscan religion is found only in some Etruscologist of foreign University and only recently! This thing is very strange and unbelievable above all because now we know, as all the historical professionals know better than me, or should also know because paid for this, that the symbolism of the egg as symbol of rebirth is found in all the ancient civilizations of the globe! It is very strange that this symbolism of the most ancient western civilization, to which we owe big part of our culture, is denied only by Italian scholars!

For other references, see the italian version of this article.


Ostric Egg -(Tarquinia Museo Archeologico )


Oval Stone with the cross and a lily. (Marzabotto , Museo Aria)



Foundation Stone with a Cross (Marzabotto , Museo Aria)


 Prof. Graziano Baccolini

Università di Bologna, March 2004

FAX: 051-209-3654 E-mail: baccolin@ms.fci.unibo.it



Index- Montovolo Retreats