Research: Rare inscription names mysterious Etruscan goddess

Art History

Research: Rare inscription names mysterious Etruscan goddess

Greg Warden with Etruscan steleArchaeologists translating a very rare inscription have discovered the name of a goddess in a sacred text that is possibly the longest such Etruscan inscription ever discovered on stone.

The discovery indicates that Uni – a divinity of fertility and possibly a mother goddess at this particular place – may have been the titular deity worshipped at the sanctuary of Poggio Colla, a key settlement in Italy for the ancient Etruscan civilization.

“We can at this point affirm that this discovery is one of the most important Etruscan discoveries of the last few decades,” said SMU professor emeritus Gregory Warden. The University is the main sponsor of the archaeological dig.

“It’s a discovery that will provide not only valuable information about the nature of sacred practices at Poggio Colla, but also fundamental data for understanding the concepts and rituals of the Etruscans, as well as their writing and perhaps their language.”

Scientists discovered the ancient stone slab embedded as part of a temple wall at the Poggio Colla dig, where many other Etruscan objects have been found, including a ceramic fragment with the earliest birth scene in European art. That object reinforces the interpretation of a fertility cult at Poggio Colla, Warden said.

Poggia Colla steleNow Etruscan language experts are studying the 500-pound stele to translate the text. It’s very rare to identify the god or goddess worshipped at an Etruscan sanctuary.

“The location of its discovery – a place where prestigious offerings were made – and the possible presence in the inscription of the name of Uni, as well as the care of the drafting of the text, which brings to mind the work of a stone carver who faithfully followed a model transmitted by a careful and educated scribe, suggest that the document had a dedicatory character,” said Adriano Maggiani, formerly professor at the University of Venice and one of the scholars working to decipher the inscription.

“It is also possible that it expresses the laws of the sanctuary — a series of prescriptions related to ceremonies that would have taken place there, perhaps in connection with an altar or some other sacred space,” said Warden, co-director and principal investigator of the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project that made the discovery.

Warden said it will be easier to speak with more certainty once the archaeologists are able to completely reconstruct the text, which consists of as many as 120 characters or more.

While archaeologists understand how Etruscan grammar works, and know some of its words and alphabet, they expect to discover new words never seen before – particularly since this discovery is not a funerary text. Permanent Etruscan inscriptions are rare, as Etruscans typically used linen cloth books or wax tablets. The texts that have been preserved are quite short and are from graves.

Besides being possibly the longest Etruscan inscription on stone, it is also one of the three longest sacred texts to date. The sandstone slab, which dates to the 6th century BCE and is nearly four feet tall by more than two feet wide, was discovered in the final stages of two decades of digging at Mugello Valley, which is northeast of Florence in north central Italy.

Other objects unearthed in the past 20 years have shed light on Etruscan worship, beliefs, gifts to divinities, and discoveries related to the daily lives of elites and non-elites, including workshops, kilns, pottery and homes. The material helps document ritual activity from the 7th century to the 2nd century BCE.

— Margaret Allen

> Read the full story and see more images at SMUResearch.com

September 12, 2016|News, Research|

Pamela Patton wins 2014 Eleanor Tufts Book Award

Pamela Patton, Chair, Division of Art History, SMU Meadows School of the ArtsPamela Patton, associate professor and chair of art history SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, has won the 2014 Eleanor Tufts Book Award from the American Society for Hispanic Art Historical Studies. Her 2013 book, Art of Estrangement: Redefining Jews in Reconquest Spain, was the unanimous choice for the national honor.

The Tufts Award was established in memory of noted Spanish art expert Eleanor Tufts, who taught at SMU from 1974 until her passing in 1991. The award honors a distinguished book, written in English, on the history of art or architecture in Iberia.

Book cover, 'Art of Estrangement: Redefining Jews in Reconquest Spain' by Pamela PattonThe judging committee wrote, “Patton’s engaging text examines the varied meanings of representations of Jews in the visual culture of the Reconquista. Original in its conception and compelling in its arguments, this book traces the ways in which the image of Spain’s Jews as ‘the other’ was transfigured by the cultural, political and religious agendas of its Christian rulers.… This publication met and surpassed the stipulated award criteria of ‘originality of conception, thoroughness of research, rigor of argument, brilliance of insight, significance of findings, and clarity of expression.’

“In sum, the book’s broad scope of inquiry and sophisticated interdisciplinary approach that draws on history, religion, and cultural studies make a significant and original contribution to the study of medieval Spanish art and Iberian studies as a whole. Its lucid and elegant prose made it a pleasure to read.”

Patton said she was greatly honored by the award, especially because she has a personal connection to Eleanor Tufts. “Just before she passed away, she was part of the committee that brought me to SMU as a Haakon Pre-Doctoral Fellow,” said Patton. “When I was subsequently hired as faculty, I took on several of her courses. So it’s a lovely bit of karma for me.”

> Read the full story from SMU News

March 7, 2014|For the Record, News, Year of the Faculty|

Ten SMU professors receive 2013-14 Sam Taylor Fellowships

Ten SMU faculty members have received 2013-14 Sam Taylor Fellowships from the Sam Taylor Fellowship Fund of the Division of Higher Education, United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

The Fellowships, funded by income from a portion of Taylor’s estate, award up to $2,000 for full-time faculty members at United Methodist-related colleges and universities in Texas. Any full-time faculty member is eligible to apply for the Fellowships, which support research “advancing the intellectual, social or religious life of Texas and the nation.”

Applications are evaluated on the significance of the project, clarity of the proposal, professional development of the applicant, value of the project to the community or nation, and the project’s sensitivity to value questions confronting higher education and society.

The winning professors for this academic year, and their projects:

• Tim Cassedy, English, Dedman College, for research at the Library of Congress for his book Language Makes the Difference, a history of ideas about language and identity at the turn of the 19th century.

• Michael Chmielewski, Psychology, Dedman College, to study the appropriateness of commonly used psychological tests and measures for diverse populations.

• Michael Corris, Art, Meadows School of the Arts, for interviews and illustration reproductions for his book The Armchair in the Studio: The Engagement of Art and Philosophy Since the 1960s.

• Benard Cummings, Theatre, Meadows School of the Arts, for a theatre adaptation of Babette’s Feast set during the Civil War.

• Kate Engel, Religious Studies, Dedman College, for archival research in Great Britain and Germany on international Protestantism at the time of the American Revolution.

• Blake Hackler, Theatre, Meadows School of the Arts, to take part in advanced training with the SITI Theatre ensemble and conduct research on embodied actor training methodologies.

• Andrea Meltzer, Psychology, Dedman College,  for a study of newlywed couples and weight-maintenance motivations.

• Lisa Pon, Art History, Meadows School of the Arts, to support reproduction of images for her upcoming book on the Madonna of the Fire.

• Candace Walkington, Teaching and Learning, Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, to build a website containing mathematics problems that are personalized to middle and high school students’ interests.

• Eric White, Special Collections, Bridwell Library, to complete the first comprehensive documentary history of every surviving copy of the Gutenberg Bible, encompassing their discovery, changing ownership and rise in cultural significance.

November 7, 2013|For the Record, News, Research|

Calendar Highlights: Fall 2013 exhibits at SMU

As the school year kicks off, be sure to make time for the five exhibitions at SMU this semester.

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Image c/o Meadows*

The Stewart Album: Art, Letters, and Souvenirs to an American Patron in Paris 

The Meadows Museum presents their recent acquisition of an “album for cartes de visite” compiled by William H. Stewart. The vast collection of artwork, photographs and letters gives insight into not only Stewart but other important Spanish artists of the modern era. The exhibit runs through Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013 and is free for SMU faculty, staff and students.

Photographs from Taos, New Mexico by Debora Hunter 

SMU Associate Professor of Art Debora Hunter has photographed the cultural landscape of Taos for the past 10 years, focusing her work on the question of man versus nature. Her Photographs from Taos, New Mexico are on display through Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013 in the Pollock Gallery, Hughes-Trigg Student Center. The exhibit is free. Hunter will also host gallery talks at noon Wednesday, Sept. 18 and 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21. Both special events will detail the photographs in relation to consumer culture and the diminishing natural resources.

Screen shot 2013-09-09 at 12.45.01 PM

Post Chiaroscuro: Prints in Color After the Renaissance 

This exhibit features artwork that “explores how color prints were made after the 16th century, when the technique known as chiaroscuro woodcut had been developed.” Specifically, there are three main printing techniques detailed in the exhibit: intaglio, relief and planographic. The Post Chiaroscuro exhibit is curated by Samantha Robinson, a second-year M.A. student in art history, and runs from Monday, Sept. 16-Friday, Dec. 13, 2013. The exhibit can be found in the Hawn Gallery of the Hamon Arts Library, Owen Arts Center, and is free and open to the public.

Manuscripts in the Islamic Tradition 

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Bridwell Library presents a collection of sacred texts in a new entry hall exhibition, Manuscripts in the Islamic Tradition. The show features manuscripts of the Quran and Dala’il al-Khayrat. All the manuscripts showcase detailed craftsmanship including calligraphy, painting and outstanding colors. The exhibit runs through Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013 with free entry to the public.

Fifty Women 

Bridwell Library will showcase Fifty Women in the Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Galleries through Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013. More than 50 books will be featured, dating from the Middle Ages to the beginning of the 20th century. All books were written, produced, owned or inspired by women, and the roles that women held – saints, queens, authors, artists, mothers.

Screen shot 2013-09-04 at 3.11.15 PM

*Selection of Pages from The Stewart Album, 2nd Half of the 19th Century, Meadows Museum, SMU, Dallas. Museum Purchase Thanks to a Gift from The Eugene McDermott Foundation and Ms. Jo Ann Geurin Thetford

September 10, 2013|Calendar Highlights|

$1.5 million gift to fund new endowed chair in Art History

John B. and Marsha Kleinheinz

John B. and Marsha Kleinheinz

A $1.5 million gift from the Kleinheinz Family Endowment for the Arts and Education will establish an endowed chair in the Division of Art History in SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts.

“We are deeply grateful to the Kleinheinz Family Endowment for its generosity and visionary support,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “This gift will enable Meadows School of the Arts to add further strength to the faculty and academic offerings in one of the school’s leading departments. The gift supports a major goal of SMU’s Second Century Campaign to endow 100 faculty positions and brings the current total to 86.”

> The Dallas Morning News: Robert Miller: SMU’s Meadows School of Arts receives $1.5 million boost

The Kleinheinz Family Endowment for the Arts and Education is a private charitable foundation supported through contributions from Marsha and John B. Kleinheinz of Fort Worth. Their daughter, Marguerite, graduated from Meadows School of the Arts in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in art history.

“We are very impressed with Marguerite’s experience at the Meadows School and SMU. Meadows Dean José Bowen has made great progress during his tenure,” said Marsha Kleinheinz, president of the Kleinheinz Family Endowment. “We want to support the future of the University that is so important to our family.”

John Kleinheinz, a Stanford University graduate, started his career as an investment banker engaged in corporate finance and mergers and acquisitions for Nomura Securities and Merrill Lynch in Tokyo, New York and London. In 1996 he established Kleinheinz Capital Partners, Inc., a private investment management firm in Fort Worth.

Marsha Kleinheinz earned a B.B.A. degree from SMU in 1983. She is currently involved in several charitable organizations, including Gill Children’s Services, The Warm Place, The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Van Cliburn Foundation, Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, Performing Arts of Fort Worth and North Texas Public Broadcasting. The Kleinheinzes have three children.

“Our art history faculty are doing remarkable new things that will change the way art is studied,” said Dean Bowen. “With this exceptionally generous gift, we will be able to recruit and retain outstanding professors and continue to enhance our reputation as one of the very best art history departments in the country.”

SMU Provost Paul Ludden added, “The Kleinheinz Family Endowed Chair in Art History will help to ensure the continued development of the Art History Division as one of SMU’s strongest academic units. It will enhance the entire University as a center of excellence for historical studies.”

> Read the full story from SMU News

December 11, 2012|News|
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