BMCR 2024.02.39

Etruria and Anatolia: material connections and artistic exchange

, , Etruria and Anatolia: material connections and artistic exchange. Mediterranean studies in antiquity. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2023. Pp. xxii, 344. ISBN 9781009151023.


[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review]


This volume proceeding from a symposium entitled, “Material Connections and Artistic Exchange: The Case of Etruria and Anatolia,” held at Rome in 2016 brings together prominent scholars on the archaeology of Mediterranean civilizations. The content of the book mainly includes papers on comparative analysis of Etruscan and Anatolian material culture, besides two chapters confined to present overview of the scholarship with a critical approach. The general framework of the book aims at discussing the dynamics of the artistic exchanges between Etruscans and the Anatolian communities. Although the connection between Etruria and Anatolia is a long-standing archaeological debate, this book brings a new insight to the subject by bringing a critical approach to the established scholarship. One of the primary agendas of the editors, as they mention in the introduction, is challenging the traditional approaches to ancient Mediterranean networks; another is to decolonize the related terminology. The editors and most of the contributors accomplished these aims to a great extent and bring fresh perspectives to the material analyses in various ways. As already noted by the editors, similarities between Etruscan and Anatolian material cultures are notable and have long been a popular research subject, but the related data still have potential to say new things on the topic. The most significant contribution of this volume is the effort to explain the dynamics of the interaction and exchange between Etruria and Anatolia by putting emphasis on material analysis rather than textual sources and linguistics. Also, positioning Etruscans and Anatolians as the primary agents instead of embracing a traditional Hellenocentric lens is something of a novel approach. Recent years have seen an increasing number of publications on Etruscan culture and archaeology, shedding new light on one of the most “mysterious” Mediterranean communities of the early Iron age.[1] This book eschews any discussions on the origins of Etruscans and avoids defining the similarities on the basis of a unilateral cultural influence. As an overall consensus, the content of the book explains similarities and differences between Etruscan and Anatolian art as a reflection of peer polity interactions.

Although I acknowledge the effort to decolonize the established terminology of the scholarship, I find the term Anatolian generic. It is obviously preferred to Asia Minor for defining the culture rather than the geography. However, the term Anatolia is lumping together a number of communities with distinct cultural features. Yet, still the editors and the authors should be credited for recognizing the fact that Anatolia was a highly fragmented place, a setting for communities with diverse cultures belonging to different cultural networks. Debate on the use of terminology to define periods or cultural styles is appropriate and opens a course to generate a more inclusive and definitive terminology. Particularly, as J. Nowlin emphasizes in Chapter 3, the term “Orientalizing” is being challenged and needs to be altered. However, the suggested alternative terms are not adequate.

The book is divided into six chapters, and each covers a different theme. The first part by A. Naso entitled, “From east to west and beyond,” presents an overview of the research history on Etruscan and Anatolian connectivity, and presents an introduction to the content of the book. He also rightly emphasizes the need for further research and for a re-assessment of the available data related to the subject. He defines the exchange between Anatolians and Etruscans as a bidirectional process by making use of various media, including burial customs, drinking practices, jewelry, and pottery.

The second part entitled, “Interpretive Frameworks,” includes four chapters. First, T. Hodos also gives an overarching analysis of the scholarship and constructed narratives. She touches on the long-standing interest in the origins of Etruscans and how this subject has found itself a place in various research areas, recently including aDNA and mtDNA.[2] She suggests “globalization” as an alternative phenomenon to explain the cultural networks in Mediterranean during the first half of the 1st millennium BC. In Chapter 3, J. Nowlin, focuses on archaeological discourses shaped by the politics. She discusses how the term “Orientalizing” has become crucial to define cultural interactions amongst the Mediterranean communities through an orientalist and diffusionist perspectives. Both of these chapters are interesting reads that present in-depth analysis of the established archaeological discourses, and the reasons to deconstruct them. T. Huntsman’s chapter explains how Bucchero was identified with the Etruscans. She also reveals how misguiding it can be by making use of past pottery records from museums, excavation depots and publications. She presents a good case to argue for the need to reassess available data in contemporary archaeology. The final chapter in this section, by N. Papalexandrou, explains the wide spectrum of connectivity and the modes of interaction between Etruria and the Aegean through the Greek sanctuaries as places of intercultural spaces. The way he contextualizes the role of sanctuaries as places of contact reveal the complexity of connectivity of the Mediterranean during the Archaic period.

The rest of the chapters are mostly focusing on specific subjects or materials to underscore the similarities of Etruscans and Anatolian communities while emphasizing the differences. The third section entitled, “Technology and Mobility,” includes two chapters. E. Simpson gives a detailed description of wooden furniture from Verucchio and Gordion, which are rare finds with rare similarities. In the following chapter N. A. Winter suggests the connectivity through the refugee craftsmen from Anatolia on the basis of the distribution of Archaic roof tiles. The scenario of Ionian artisans fleeing Anatolia under the Persian invasion is a common explanation for similar artistic features, and it is still endorsed.

Chapter four covers the theme, “Shared Practices,” in four papers focused on iconographies, funerary practices and luxury goods. J. M. Turfa traces the iconographies of tridents widely with respect to geography and constructs a chronology for the use of these objects. He suggests Near East as the original source, but acknowledges the need for further research. A. Rathje’s paper emphasizes the complexity of connectivity in the past and underlines the significance of luxury goods for defining social identities. F. Gilotta discusses the prestige objects, terracotta and metalwares used as funerary offerings in Etruria during the Orientalizing and Archaic periods. Anatolia, particularly Phrygia is suggested as the source of inspiration with metalware craftsmanship. He defines the similarities of funerary objects as a reflection of shared ideology rather than a commercial interaction. Caere and Vulci are suggested as catalysts of this cultural network. Use of images would have been very useful for the reader. S. Steingraber compares the rock-cut tombs and monuments within a wide geographic range and questions the generic use of the term “koine” for the pre-Hellenistic period. All the papers in this chapter present a re-assessment of “old” data and underline the need for fresh perspectives.

“Shared and Distant Iconographies” is the fifth section containing three papers, where the authors stress how exceptionally Etruscans and Anatolian communities exchanged artistic ideas despite the distance. S. Berndt presents us with a detailed survey of wall paintings from Gordion and gives a comparative analysis with contemporary examples from Etruria and elsewhere in Anatolia. The Painted House of Gordion is defined as a religious building and connected with the Phrygian mother goddess. L. C. Pieraccini reveals that small details confirm shared practices and knowledge. An iconographic analysis of dog depictions on pottery, terracotta plagues and wall paintings are interpreted as the reflection of common practices and artistic exchange. The last chapter in this section by D. Paleothodoros gives a critical overview of the scholarship advocating eastern influence on Etruscan pottery and promoting the theory of the “immigrant painter” as Winter did in Chapter 7. He argues to deconstruct the “Panionic” paradigm and suggests that a broader perspective on the mobility of people, objects and knowledge is necessary.

The final section, “Shared Forms and Distinct Functions,” continues to discuss similarities and differences within different media. E. P. Baughan points out the differences in arrangement and use of the klinai in tombs and emphasizes the impact of local identities despite the physical similarities.[3] The last chapters of the book cover personal items and explore their uses in gendered contexts. G. Meyers presents a comparative analysis of the female assembly scenes on cippi from Chiusi and on the Polyxena sarcophagus from the Troad. She suggests a collective visual culture shared by Etruscans, Greeks and Anatolians. T. Şare Ağtürk, gives a detailed description of fashion trends in western Anatolia and Etruria. Then she makes use of dressing details, particularly pointed shoes, to argue that similarities in material context should not simply be interpreted as borrowing or adopting, but rather as the adaptation and use of things shaped by local dynamics. Finally, A. Q. Castor focuses on the use of necklaces and bullae by male individuals and their representations in Achaemenid Anatolia and Etruria. She also notes the differences and resemblances of jewelry used as an indicator of privilege and royalty.

In conclusion, Etruria and Anatolia: Material Connections and Artistic Exchange provides a comprehensive compilation of research on material culture for tracing the dynamics of cultural interaction between the Etruscans and Anatolian communities. In this sense, the chapters of the book draw before our eyes a vivid picture of the Mediterranean. The meticulous investigation and in-depth analysis of material evidence with a critical approach opens a new course for future research. In the end, the volume underlines the importance of further investigation and re-interpretation of material contexts for defining the cultural interaction between Etruria and Anatolia. All the images are high quality and useful, especially the maps. This volume brings new insights to Mediterranean archaeology and addresses a broad audience of scholars and students.


Authors and Titles

Introduction: Etruria, Anatolia, and Wider Mediterranean Connectivity (Lisa C. Pieraccini and Elisabeth Baughan)

I. Broadening Perspectives: A Wider Mediterranean Landscape

  1. From East to West and Beyond (Alessandro Naso)

II. Interpretive Frameworks

  1. Bridging Cultures in the Past and Present (Tamar Hodos)
  2. Etruria and Anatolia: An Ancient Relationship Framed by the Modern Views of “Orientalization” (Jessica Nowlin)
  3. A Tale of Two Buccheri: East and West (Theresa Huntsman)
  4. The Role of Greek Sanctuaries in Material and Artistic Interactions between Etruria and Anatolia (Nassos Papalexandrou)

III. Technology and Mobility

  1. Wooden Furniture from Verucchio and Gordion (Elizabeth Simpson)
  2. Refugee Terracotta Craftsmen from Anatolia in Southern Etruria and Latium, 550/540 to 510 BCE (Nancy A. Winter)

IV. Shared Practices

  1. Etruscan Lightning and Anatolian Images: The Use and Perception of Tridents in Etruria and the East (Jean Macintosh Turfa)
  2. Luxury Consumption and Elite Lifestyles (Annette Rathje)
  3. Tracing Connections between Archaic Etruria and Anatolia in Material Culture and Funerary Ideology (Fernando Gilotta)
  4. Rock Tombs and Monuments in South Etruria and Anatolia: Typology, Chronology, Ideology – Differences and Common Elements (Stefan Steingraber)

V. Shared and Distant Iconographies

  1. Wall Paintings from Gordion in Their Anatolian Context (Susanne Berndt)
  2. Chasing the Dog in Etruria and Anatolia: Connections, Context, and Meaning (Lisa C. Pieraccini)
  3. Reconsidering Ionian and Other Eastern Influences on Etruscan Black-Figure Vase-Painting (Dimitris Paleothodoros)

VI. Shared Forms and Distant Functions

  1. Forms and Functions of Beds and Couches in Etruscan and Anatolian Tombs (Elisabeth P. Baughan)
  2. Female Assembly on Archaic Etruscan and Anatolian Funerary Monuments (Gretchen Meyers)
  3. Anatolian Fashion in Etruscan Clothing: The Case of the Pointed Shoes (Tuna Şare Ağtürk)
  4. Male Necklaces in the East and West (Alexis Q. Castor)



[1] Jean MacIntosh Turfa (ed.), The Etruscan World. London; New York: Routledge, 2013. Alessandro Naso (ed.), Etruscology. Boston; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2017. Sinclair Bell, Alexandra A. Carpino, A Companion to the Etruscans. Oxford; Chichester; Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, 2016.

[2] Brisighelli, F., Capelli, C., Álvarez-Iglesias, V. et al. The Etruscan timeline: a recent Anatolian connection. Eur J Hum Genet 17, 693–696, 2009. Ghirotto S, Tassi F, Fumagalli E, Colonna V, Sandionigi A, et al. Origins and Evolution of the Etruscans’ mtDNA. PLoS ONE 8(2): e55519, 2013. Open access.

[3] She has already published a detailed book on the use of tomb klinai in Anatolia and comparisons with Macedonia and Etruria, which is useful for further reading: Baughan, Elizabeth P. 2013. Couched in Death: Klinai and Identity in Anatolia and Beyond. Wisconsin Studies in Classics. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press.