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Archaeologists in Italy have discovered more than twenty well-preserved bronze statues, dating back to ancient Roman times, in thermal baths near Tuscany, in what Reuters described as an “exciting discovery”.

The statues were discovered in San Casciano dei Bagni, a hilltop town in the province of Siena, about 160 kilometers north of Rome, where archaeologists have been working in the muddy ground of an ancient bath since 2019.

“It’s a very important and exceptional discovery,” Jacopo Taboli, an assistant professor at the University of Siena who coordinated the excavation, told Reuters.

Massimo Osanna, a senior official at the Italian Ministry of Culture, described the discovery as one of the most remarkable “in the history of the ancient Mediterranean” and the most important since the discovery of Riace.

A pair of giant bronze statues of ancient Greek warriors, recovered from the Mediterranean Sea in 1972, were discovered in Riace.

Taboli said the statues, depicting the gods Hygeia, Apollo, and other Greco-Roman deities, were used to decorate a temple, before being dipped in water, in a kind of ritual, “probably around the first century AD”.

“You give water because you hope the water will give you something in return,” he said of the ritual.

The Ministry of Culture said in a statement that most of the statues date back to between the second century BC and the first century AD, a period of “a great transformation in ancient Tuscany”, when it shifted from Etruscan rule to Roman rule.

It was an “era of great conflicts” and “cultural osmosis”, the ministry said, with the statues embodying a “unique multicultural and multilingual sanctuary”.

Taboli said the statues were covered with nearly 6,000 bronze, silver and gold coins, and the hot muddy waters of San Casciano helped preserve them “as on the day they were submerged.”

In the course of his speech, the archaeologist revealed that his team recovered 24 large statues, in addition to many small statues, and indicated that it was unusual to make them of bronze, not clay.

The ministry statement said this indicated that they came from what it called an elite settlement, where archaeologists also found “fantastic inscriptions in Etruscan and Latin,” referring to the names of powerful local families.

According to Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano, “This extraordinary discovery confirms once again that Italy is a country of immense and unique treasures.”

The ministry said the statues had been moved to a restoration laboratory near Grosseto, but that they would eventually be displayed in a new museum in San Cassiano.

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