Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mysteries of Etruscan civilization still buried in ancient tombs

This famous masterpiece of Etruscan art shows the culture's approval of soft feelings and the male/female duality of civilization. A stark contrast to the later rigidity of Roman civilization that revered pure domination.
Rome was not built in a day, and it was not the beginning of Italian civilization either. Before the Romans, the Etruscans dominated the Italian peninsula from approximately  900 B.C.E. until the rise of the Roman Republic in the 5th century B.C.E.

When Romans were still considered rustic bumpkins, Etruscans were exerting their refined civilization into a savage Europe. The November/December 2010 issue of Archaeology Magazine reported that the Etruscans ruled their land of Etruria between the Tiber and Arno rivers. They were excellent seafarers, trading throughout the Mediterranean, but interestingly the origins of the Etruscan language are unknown. Scholarship of their unique language cannot identify any known related tongue. About 300 words from this ancient language have been identified, and the Etruscans adapted the Greek alphabet for use in their own writing.
The Etruscan Chimera of Arezzo
The artistic skill of the Etruscans captivate modern people with its elegant beauty. The Etruscans were highly regarded as master metallurgists. Even a layperson can immediately recognize the skill illustrated in Etruscan artifacts. For example, this 5th century B.C.E. bronze chimera found in Arezzo, Italy in 1553 displays reverence for the organic flow of natural objects and obviously durable craftsmanship.

Etruscan civilization was well advanced for its time. The Archaeology Magazine article written by Rossella Lorenzi opened with "They taught the French to make wine and the Romans to build roads, and they introduced writing to Europe." (p. 36, Nov./Dec. 2010). These are significant boasts for a civilization that has been historically overshadowed by people who developed within its nurturing realm.

Tarquinius Superbus was the last Etruscan king of Rome. After being expelled by Roman forces in 509 B.C.E., the Romans replaced the Etruscan system of monarchy with their Republic. Gradually from this point forward, Rome absorbed the cities of Etruria and asserted their culture.

Although Roman ruins get the greatest attention from scholars and tourists, Etruscan ruins still have secrets to reveal. Many tombs near the city of Tarquinia, about 50 miles northwest of Rome, have yet to be explored. This Etruscan necropolis contains an estimated 6,000 tombs, and scholars are currently undertaking new excavations. Knowledge of the rich artistry and obscure cultural origins of Etruscans will hopefully expand as these distant ancestors of the Italian peoples are further studied.

Coincidentally, right after I read the article about the Etruscans in Archaeology Magazine, Australian author Elisabeth Storrs submitted her new novel The Wedding Shroud for review at Historical Novel Review, where I am a contributor. The Wedding Shroud explores the conflict and connections between the Roman and Etruscans cultures during the turbulent 5th century B.C.E. With my interest in Etruscan aroused, I snapped up the novel and am currently reading it. I'll be sure to alert everyone when my review is done. I can say already that it is going to be a good one.  

Her website:

Related post: The inspiration of archaeology