From the fourth century B.C. and throughout the entire Hellenistic age, the rite of cremation is particularly well-documented in northern Etruria, with the consequent funerary custom of storing the ashes of the deceased in urns sculpted in stone or modelled in terracotta, generally characterised by lively polychrome decoration, only a few traces of which have survived.
In the main Etruscan cities in this vast territory (Volterra, Chiusi and Perugia), a great number of urns were produced, with specific artistic and typological characteristics.
On the lid of the urns, the deceased was ideally depicted semi-reclining in the classical position of the banqueter, while on the case mythological scenes were sculpted, or more specifically Etruscan themes linked to the sphere of the afterlife (journey to the underworld, funeral processions, the appearance of the spouse of the deceased), the result of local reworkings but united by the same figurative language of Hellenic origin.
One of the most characteristic manifestations of Etruscan artistic and artisanal production, urns were sculpted from natural stone from the area such as alabaster for Volterra and Chiusi and travertine for Perugia, although less prized stones were also used.
The principal forms of Etruscan urn production are represented in the Gregorian Etruscan Museum.