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Lago degli Idoli

Archaeological sites

A place sacred to the Etruscans in the heart of the Foreste Casentinesi (Casentino Forests)

The Lago degli Idoli is a small water reservoir on Mount Falterona, located a short distance from the sources of the Arno river. It is a mysterious and fascinating place, as well as the most important archeological site in the Casentino.

Originally known as the Lago di Ciliegiata, it owes its name to votive statuettes found in its depths over the years. The first discovery occurred in the spring of 1838, when a cowherd accidentally found a small bronze statue depicting Hercules from 450 B.C.; this was followed by numerous discoveries thanks to an excavation campaign undertaken by a group of local amateurs and volunteers. 

According to the inventories of the time, in those early years more than 600 bronze statuettes, about 1.000 pieces of aes rude (a kind of devotional bronze pieces) and 2.000 arrowheads were found. The numerous discoveries brought to light the importance of the site in antiquity, which had been frequented since ancient times, as also evidenced by a number of lithic artifacts, including a finely worked arrowhead, recovered during subsequent excavation campaigns.

Thus, the Lake of Ciliegiata appears to have been a place related to the cult of water of great interest in northern Etruria, strategically located along an important route that crossed the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines toward the Po Valley.

Most of the bronze statuettes depict male persons in an attitude of prayer with open palms, or as offerors while clasping gifts of various kinds in their hands. Rare, on the other hand, are the female figures, although among those few found there is one that is particularly striking, dating from the 6th century B.C. and on display at the Casentino Archeological Museum, which reproduces a kore wearing a long, richly decorated chiton

There are also numerous votive objects depicting reproductions of arms or hands in the act of clutching a gift for the deity invoked, including a realistic hand clutching a fine pomegranate, a fruit sacred to the gods of the Hereafter.

Many of the artifacts from the great votive ensemble of the lago degli Idoli are now kept at the Piero Albertoni Casentino Archeological Museum in Bibbiena, while others are exhibited in major museums around the world, including the Louvre Museum in Paris and the British Museum in London. 

* an ancient Greek sculpture

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