Photo courtesy of O. Louis Mazzatenta/National Geographic Image Collection

A curious boy peers into the dark, third-century B.C.E. Tomb of the Aninas in the necropolis of Tarquinia. Guarding the entrance to the tomb are two winged demons: the hammer-bearing Charun (at left) and his consort Vanth, both of whom escorted dead souls into the underworld. In the fourth century B.C.E., these demons began appearing on Etruscan tomb walls, supplanting the festive scenes of earlier generations. Perhaps the Etruscans, who thrived in central Italy from about the eighth century B.C.E., had begun to nervously eye the burgeoning Roman empire to the south—and expressed their fears by painting these haunting images. By the first century B.C.E., Rome had swallowed up Etruscan culture (compare with photo of terracotta bust).