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Etruscan Tomb Is Oldest Frescoed Burial Chamber in Europe

A suspected tomb raider turned police informant has led archaeologists to what experts described Friday as the oldest known frescoed burial chamber in Europe.

The tomb, located on a hilly wheat field north of Rome, belonged to a warrior prince from the nearby Etruscan town of Veio, according to archaeologists who took journalists on a tour of the site.

Dating from around 690 B.C., the underground burial chamber is decorated with roaring lions and migratory birds.

"This princely tomb is unique and it marks the origin of Western painting," said Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli, referring to the ancient art of burial painting.

Authorities were led to the site in May by an Italian on trial for trafficking in illegally excavated artifacts. He revealed the location of the tomb in hopes of gaining leniency from the court, said Carabinieri Gen. Ugo Zottin.