We present and discuss a "3-dimensional" diagnostic diagram for Seyfert2 galaxies obtained by means of X-ray and [OIII] data on a large sample of objects (reported in the Appendix). The diagram shows the Kalpha iron line equivalent width as a function of both the column density derived from the photoelectric cutoff and the 2-10 keV flux normalized to the [OIII] optical line flux (the latter corrected for extinction and assumed to be a true indicator of the source intrinsic luminosity). We find that the hard X-ray properties of type 2 objects depend on a single parameter, the absorbing column density along the line of sight,in accordance with the unified model. The diagram can be used to identify Compton thick sources and to isolate and study peculiar objects. From this analysis we have obtained a column density distribution of Seyfert 2 galaxies which is thought to be a good approximation of the real distribution. A large population of heavily absorbed objects is discovered, including many Compton thick candidates. Our results indicate that the mean Log Nh/cm^(-2)in type 2 Seyferts is 23.5 and that as much as 23-30% of sources have Nh > 10^24 cm^(-2).

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