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The ancient Italic culture of the Etruscans developed out of the Iron Age Villanovan culture beginning in the 7th century BCE. It was centered in Etruria—a region roughly equivalent to modern Tuscany. Etruria’s rich mineral resources resulted in trade with the cultures of the eastern Mediterranean, including Greece. Greek luxury goods were imported by the Etruscans and used as grave goods; in fact most of the Greek vases in the museums of the world were actually discovered in Etruscan tombs. Greek influence can be seen in the Etruscans’ art and their adoption of some of the Greek gods, such as Apollo.
Etruscans were known for their distinctive shiny black pottery known as Bucchero ware, with its molded, rather than painted, ornament. They were also famous for their bronze work, both small decorative objects and cast bronze statues. For large sculpture, however, they more commonly used terracotta.
Etruscan control and influence eventually extended from the Po River in the north of Italy as far south as Campania, near modern Naples. Rome was in fact ruled for a time by Etruscan kings before the last of them was overthrown in 510 BCE in a revolt that led to the creation of the Roman Republic.