Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2011.02.25
David Soren (ed.), Etruscan Studies 13 (2010): Journal of the Etruscan Foundation. Fremont, MI: Etruscan Foundation, 2010. Pp. viii, 189. ISBN 9780981969299. $100.00.
Reviewed by Skylar Neil, Magdalene College, University of Cambridge (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Table of Contents
The latest issue of Etruscan Studies, as previous have done, provides a solid selection of original research, excavation reports and relevant papers previously presented at conferences during the year. Etruscan Studies, although perhaps still secondary to Studi Etruschi within the discipline, nevertheless has established itself during its mere two decades in circulation as the foremost source for English-language Etruscan scholarship. This particular issue is no exception, divided into three main sections of original research papers (“Art, Architecture and Artifacts,” “Excavation Reports and Field Surveys” and a selection of papers from a 2008 APA/AIA Joint Symposium) and including book reviews and fellowship announcements as well.
In the first article of the section on Art, Architecture and Artifacts, entitled “A Study of the Architectonic Development of the Great Funerary Tumuli in the Etruscan Necropoleis of Cerveteri,” Elena Marini outlines first the relationship between urban expansion and the necropoleis, and then the architectural development (what she calls ‘architectonic’) of the tumulus through the Iron Age and Early Orientalizing periods within the territory of Cerveteri. After a general discussion of the various types of tumuli and the evolution of these funerary structures over time, Marini details measurements and architectural particulars of ten tumuli in the Banditaccia necropolis. Although this information is very detailed and useful for those interested in the development of the tumulus in this area, the article ends abruptly without a satisfactory conclusion.
Alexis Castor, in her article “Late Classical Representations of Jewelry: Identifying Costume Trends in Etrusco-Italic Art,” reviews the categories of material evidence for body adornment (both the jewelry itself and depictions thereof) in the 4th century BC and interprets the way in which jewelry may have acted as signifiers for particular female identities within society. Castor first details the extant jewelry found for the Late Etruscan period, relating changes in style to economic upheaval in Etruria during this period. Castor then reviews the various categories of evidence for depictions of jewelry, commenting on the frequency of certain types within particular visual contexts and suggesting they may indicate specific roles for women, such as priestesses or supplicants. The choice of Greek and Etruscan styles of jewelry is also addressed; the coincidence of both is interpreted as evidence for a culturally connected Mediterranean. Overall, Castor presents a compelling case for the importance of ancient body adornments not only in their role as identity signifiers, but also as clues into the values and perceptions of those viewing them.
The next section of the journal presents excavation and field reports. The first, on the Marsala Hinterland Survey project written by the directors, Emma Blake and Robert Schon, outlines the progress made during the 2008 fieldwork season.1 The aim of the Marsala Hinterland Survey is to explore the landscape dynamics operating in western coastal Sicily over the longue durée, focusing especially on the interplay between the coast and interior, the urban centres (namely, Motya and Lilybaeum/Marsala) and the rural territory, and foreigners and indigenous populations. Blake and Schon present a thorough contextual background for the project—geomorphology, land use and historical information—before addressing research goals and project methodology. The survey is conducted primarily via fieldwalking, in which the area walked is limited to highly restrictive tracts in order to ensure a representative sample without an overabundance of material to process. Next, preliminary results for the 2008 season are presented, divided into chronological periods from the Paleolithic to Post-Antiquity. Highlights include Upper Paleolithic and Neolithic stone tools, a dearth of evidence for the Archaic period, and a Roman site occupied from the Republican period through Late Antiquity, with evidence for both pre-Roman and Medieval use. This project provides a much-needed comprehensive approach to the history of western Sicily.
The next report, by Paola Mecchia, details the progress of the Mezzomiglio excavation conducted by the University of Arizona between 1993 and 2006 near Chianciano Terme. This site consists of a coldwater spa with phases dating to the Etruscan and Roman periods, which later fell into disuse in late antiquity. Mecchia first outlines the geomorphology of the area before launching into an extensive history of the excavations in the territory of Chianciano Terme, constructing a narrative of the area based on their findings. In the conclusion of the article, Mecchia outlines the conclusions of the Mezzomiglio project: by analyzing the ceramic remains recovered over the course of the excavation, they were able to further clarify the series of chronological phases evident at the site from the 3rd century BC to the modern period.
The final report in this section, entitled “An Archaic Period Well at Poggio Civitate: Evidence for Broader Final Destruction” and written by Anthony Tuck with Jevon Brunk, Theresa Huntsman and Haley Tallman, looks at the destruction of the elaborately decorated Archaic period building on Piano del Tesoro, datable to the third quarter of the 6th century. This report addresses, in light of excavations outside of the Piano del Tesoro area, the systematic way in which the building was dismantled. Tuck et al. focus specifically on a well discovered within the Civitate A area, identified in 1997 and excavated from 1998-1999. Towards the bottom of the well, a heavily packed layer of roof tiles was found. Although a date for the tile layer cannot be definitively determined the ceramics below date stylistically to the Archaic Period. From this, the authors suggest that the well was constructed, used and plugged exclusively during the Archaic period, and that occupation of the Poggio Civitate site ceased at this point. Moreover, this new evidence may support the hypothesis that the destroyers of the Archaic period building may have intended to prevent habitation on other areas of the hill. This conclusion, should other evidence come to light linking these two destructions, would shed some important light on the shifting regional and political dynamics evident in other areas of Etruria during this period.
The final section of original research in this volume is comprised of selections from the 2008 Joint AIA/APA Colloquium entitled “Historical Approaches to Etruscan Epigraphy.” In the introduction to this section, Hilary Becker, the organizer of this panel, and Rex Wallace lay out their aims in creating the joint panel, namely to bring together scholars from various disciplines (although “interdisciplinary” in this context seems to mean “classical archaeologists and ancient historians”) in a discussion of Etruscan literacy: the role and significance of the written word, specifically inscriptions, within Etruscan society.
The first selection from this panel is Rex Wallace’s paper “Alphabet, Orthography and Paleography at Poggio Civitate (Murlo),” a study of the inscribed bone and ivory artifacts from the Orientalizing building at Poggio Civitate from the second half of the 7th century BC. These artifacts are unique in the study of Etruscan epigraphy because they can be securely dated and provenanced, and indeed these plaques were locally produced. After first detailing each extant inscription as well as commonalities and differences between the alphabets used in each, Wallace focuses specifically on the alphas in each inscription and concludes that the variations apparent in the inscriptions are congruent with the alphabet used in northern Etruria during this period. Despite this conclusion, connections with other nearby communities, and thus possible routes of transmission, cannot be confirmed without further evidence.
The next paper in this section is “Inscriptions on Tiles from Chiusi: Archaeological and Epigraphical Notes,” written by Enrico Benelli. It presents specific evidence in support of the argument in favour of widespread literacy, at least in the Clusine territory, due to the variability in epigraphic style on tiles specific to this area. These tiles used to cover nicchiotti (niches) containing cinerary urns in chamber tombs—reflecting increase in population during the 3rd-2nd century. Benelli outlines the technicalities of the inscription process, as well as the implications of the use of the regolarizzato versus manerieto alphabet. By comparing the handwriting on the urns (written by professionals) with that on the tiles (written by non-professional writers), Benelli hypothesizes that these may have been inscribed by relatives of deceased, as those interred in these tombs represented an elite, and thus educated and literate, population.
In “The Written Word and Proprietary Inscriptions in Etruria,” Hilary Becker examines evidence of property ownership at varying levels—the individual, the clan and the city-state. Becker provides an excellent overview of the material and epigraphic evidence for each category in turn, before detailing those inscriptions used in establishing legal contracts and property boundaries: namely, the Cippus Perusinus and Tabula Cortonensis. Although her conclusions are largely general assertions about the importance of writing within Etruscan society, Becker’s article supplies a clear and concise summary of the evidence pertaining to proprietary inscriptions and their significance within and between various social entities.
In the final selection from the panel, “The Name-Changes of Legendary Romans and the Etruscan-Latin Bilingual Inscriptions: Strategies for Romanization,” Gary Farney examines the phenomenon of name changes amongst the Etruscan and other Italian peoples, both legendary and historically attested. Farney first gives examples of this phenomenon within the historical accounts—namely, Tarquinius Priscus and Appius Claudius—before engaging with material evidence. Farney looks at the epigraphic evidence from northeastern Etruscan necropoleis, especially Etruscan-Latin bilingual inscriptions. He examines the various ways in which Etruscan names are “Latinized,” as well as the frequency of certain cultural markers such as the use of the patronymic versus the matronymic. In looking at the abandonment of Etruscan praenomina in favor of Latin ones, Farney determines that this trend is not uniform and may represent a conscious choice by some Etruscan Roman citizens to assimilate into the larger Roman social system. Moreover, Farney concludes that the legendary discussed earlier in the article may have acted as inspiration for newly assimilated Italian peoples to situate their identity within the Roman citizenry.
The remainder of the volume includes five book reviews, all on Etruscan-related monographs, and an announcement concerning a research fellowship funded by the Etruscan Foundation. Although both the scholarship within and the physical publication itself are of high quality, the volume feels sparse at a mere 189 pages. Understandably, with a journal focused specifically on the Etruscan world the pool of potential contributions is already quite narrow, and the vagaries of the publication world mean a varying quantity of publishable material from cycle to cycle; however, I can’t help but agree with David Ridgeway in his 2000 assessment of the journal2 that this publication might be best served by expanding the subject matter to include all of pre-Roman Italy, while still maintaining a preference for Etruscan studies. Increasing the breadth of the topics covered would attract a larger pool of both contributors and subscribers, and the Etruscan scholarship would benefit from the contexualization of the Etruscan world within the larger socio-historical framework of pre-Roman Italy. Nevertheless, as it stands, the latest issue of Etruscan Studies is a solid collection of both original research and the latest news on Etruscan scholarship, and much can be gleaned from this selection of articles.
1. For the sake of full disclosure, I have worked on this project from 2008-2010.
2. Ridgeway, David. “Etruscan culture is not all Greek.” Times Higher Education, 6 October 2000.