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

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Twelve SMU professors receive emeritus status in 2014-15

Twelve distinguished faculty members with 440 years of combined service to SMU will retire with emeritus status as the 2014-15 academic year ends. The professors, and their dates of service:

Christine Buchanan, Professor Emerita of Biological Sciences, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, 1977-2015

Bradley Kent Carter, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, 1970-2015

Anthony Cortese, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, 1989-2015

Gail Daly, Professor Emerita of Law, Dedman School of Law, 1990-2015

Deborah Diffily, Professor Emerita of Teaching and Learning, Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, 2000-2015

 Richard Haberman, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, 1978-2015

 James K. Hopkins, Professor Emeritus of History, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, 1974-2015

 Roger Kerin, Professor Emeritus of Marketing, Cox School of Business, 1973-2015

 Larry Palmer, Professor Emeritus of Music, Meadows School of the Arts, 1970-2015

 John Ubelaker, Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, 1968-2015

 Ben Wallace, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, 1969-2015

 P. Gregory Warden, Professor Emeritus of Art History, Meadows School of the Arts, 1982-2015

Warden honored with knighthood by the Italian Republic

P. Gregory Warden, University Distinguished Professor of Art History, SMUGreg Warden, University Distinguished Professor of Art History and associate dean for academic affairs in SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, received the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity and the title of Cavaliere (knight) in the name of the President of the Italian Republic on June 4, 2011. The award was presented by Fabrizio Nava, the Consul General of Italy in Houston, at the Italian Club of Dallas as part of a ceremony celebrating the 65th anniversary of the Italian Republic on June 2 and the 150th anniversary of the Unity of Italy that was proclaimed on March 17, 1861.

The Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity was instituted in 1947 to recognize the achievements of those Italians and foreigners who had played a distinguished role in the reconstruction of Italy after World War II. It is now bestowed upon Italians and foreign nationals who have provided a meaningful contribution to the prestige of Italy while promoting friendly relations and cooperation between Italy and other countries.

In presenting the award on behalf of the President of the Italian Republic, Consul General Nava said, “Dr. Warden’s work in promoting the studies of Italian culture at Southern Methodist University contributed greatly to the success of the program SMU-in-Italy. His projects of excavation in Italy have served greatly to advance the knowledge of the Etruscan people in the United States. He is indeed a great scholar in this field and an important ambassador of the Italian culture in this country.”

Dr. Warden, a native of Italy, is co-director of the Mugello Valley Archaelogical Project, an SMU-sponsored archaeological excavation at the Etruscan site of Poggio Colla, about 20 miles northeast of Florence. The site, first excavated from 1968 to 1972 by an Italian archaeology official, was reopened by Dr. Warden in 1995. He also established and oversees the Poggio Colla Field School, which brings university students from around the world to the site for six weeks each summer to conduct research. In 2009, Dr. Warden helped organize an exhibition of Etruscan art at SMU’s Meadows Museum, including findings from the Poggio Colla dig. It was the most comprehensive exhibition of Etruscan art ever undertaken in the United States.

Warden joined the SMU art history faculty in 1982 and teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on Etruscan and Roman art and archaeology, as well as introductory courses on the history of architecture. He was director of the SMU-in-Italy summer program in Florence, Orvieto and Rome from 1987 to 1998. He also chaired the Division of Art History for six years, and has served as associate dean for academic affairs at the Meadows School since 1998. He has received multiple teaching awards, including a Rotunda Award for outstanding teaching from the SMU student body in 1985-6. He was named the 1996-97 Meadows Foundation Distinguished Teaching Professor and, in 2008, he was honored with the title University Distinguished Professor of Art History.

Art History adds Ph.D program, names Tejada as endowed chair

Roberto TejadaFollowing an international search, the Division of Art History in SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts has announced the appointment of Roberto Tejada (right) as the new Distinguished Endowed Chair in Art History, effective Aug. 1, 2010.

The new endowed position was made possible by an anonymous gift of $2 million, intended to help launch a new Ph.D. program in art history at SMU in the fall of 2011. It will be the first art history Ph.D. program in North Texas and one of only a few in the state.

“Although our donor wishes to remain anonymous, we express our gratitude for this generous support of a major goal of the Second Century Campaign – strengthening our academic programs and increasing the number of endowed academic positions,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “The appointment of Dr. Tejada and this innovative new doctoral program in art history leverage the unique resources of the Meadows Museum and the cultural richness of our region.”

A well-known specialist in modern and contemporary Latin American and Latino/U.S. visual culture, Dr. Tejada is also a highly distinguished teacher, art critic, poet, curator and editor. Ramón A. Gutierrez, Preston & Sterling Morton Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Chicago, said that Tejada is regarded as “one of a very small handful of top Latino art historians/critics and as one of Latin America’s most important thinkers in the field.”

“We are thrilled to have Professor Tejada as our new endowed chair,” said Meadows Dean José Bowen. “He has formidable scholarly, curatorial and editorial credentials that will transform SMU’s already excellent art history program into one of national and international prominence, particularly in the arena of Latin American and Iberian studies. Building on the excellence of our existing faculty’s expertise in Colonial Latin America, Pre-Columbian art, and medieval Spain, and also on the strengths of the Meadows Museum and its renowned collection of Spanish art, Dr. Tejada will be a magnet for Ph.D. students around the world.”

Tejada comes to SMU from the University of Texas-Austin, where he is an associate professor in the art and art history department. Previously he taught at the University of California-San Diego, where he was one of 8 prominent scholars specifically hired by the university to promote interdisciplinary research and create synergies among departments, programs and research centers.

Professor Tejada also has lived in Mexico City, taught at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and curated for the Museo de las Artes in Guadalajara. He spent 7 years as executive editor of Artes de México, one of the continent’s leading arts journals, and was on the editorial team of Vuelta Magazine in Mexico City, published by the late Nobel Laureate Octavio Paz, which focused on the arts, culture and politics of Latin America. He has published books on Mexican photography and on the artist Celia Alvarez Muñoz as well as numerous articles.

An accomplished poet, Tejada founded and is now co-editor of Mandorla: New Writing from the Americas, one of the premiere bilingual journals of poetry, poetics, and visual arts from the Americas. He will continue to publish the journal at SMU.

The recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, Tejada earned his Ph.D. in interdisciplinary studies (art history, English, comparative literature and media studies) at the State University of New York-Buffalo and his B.A. in comparative literature at New York University.

The international search for the new chair was led by SMU University Distinguished Professor in Art History Greg Warden. The search committee included numerous prominent scholars, among them W.J.T. Mitchell of the University of Chicago and Annabel J. Wharton of Duke University.

The division’s new Ph.D. program will feature a curriculum with two areas of concentration: one geographic, covering Latin America, Iberia and the Americas; and the other media-based, focusing on technologies of visual communication.

The Ph.D. curriculum is called RASC/A (Rhetorics of Art, Space and Culture,) says Janis Bergman-Carton, chair of art history at SMU. “Rooted in the fields of both art history and visual culture studies, RASC/A builds upon the strengths of the present faculty with renewed emphasis on historical and new media, architecture and the city, and performance and ritual,” she adds. “Emphasizing spatial as well as visual culture, RASC/A extends the department’s commitment to the study of visual technologies, while also advancing transnational scholarship in arts of Latin America, Iberia, and the Americas.

“Dr. Tejada’s extensive work on photography and modern Mexican, Chicano, and Contemporary Latino art history makes him the ideal candidate for this exciting initiative.”

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Faculty in the News: Feb. 9, 2009

Etruscan alabaster urnGreg Warden, Art History, Meadows School of the Arts, provided expertise for an Associated Press story on the new exhibition of Etruscan treasures at SMU’s Meadows Museum. The story ran in USA Today Feb. 4, 2009.

Mark Roglán, Meadows Museum Director, discussed the museum’s “reinvention” for a feature article in D Magazine, February 2009.

Alan Bromberg, Dedman School of Law, was one of 5 law professors who filed an amicus brief on behalf of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban concerning a recent insider-trading complaint filed by the Securities Exchange Commission. The brief was discussed in The Wall Street Journal Feb. 4, 2009.

Cal Jillson, Political Science, Dedman College, talked about a recent Gallup poll that shows Texas in the nation’s political middle with The Austin American-Statesman Feb. 1, 2009.

Mike Davis, Finance, Cox School of Business, discussed the need for the stimulus package now before Congress with The San Francisco Chronicle Feb. 1, 2009.

Calendar Highlights: Feb. 2, 2009

Etruscan warrior statuetteVolunteer meet-up: SMU’s 44th Annual Women’s Symposium is looking for volunteers – learn more about how you can help at a Volunteer Mixer 5 p.m. Feb. 4 in the Women’s Center, 3rd floor, Hughes-Trigg Student Center. For more information, contact Karen Click, 214-768-4796

Interdisciplinary Dialogue: Jill De Temple, assistant professor of religious studies, will moderate a discussion of the intersection of Latino Protestant religious identities and political action in “Latino Protestants, Evangelicals, and Pentecostals” Feb. 4 in the Umphrey Lee Center faculty dining room. Dinner is at 6:30 pm; discussion is scheduled for 7-8:30 p.m. To register, contact Carolyn Douglas.

Ancient treasures: SMU’s Meadows Museum celebrates the opening of “From the Temple and the Tomb: Etruscan Treasures from Tuscany” and “New Light on the Etruscans: Fifteen Years of Excavation at Poggio Colla” with a reception for faculty and staff 4:30-6 p.m. Feb. 5 in the Museum. A special lecture by University Distinguished Professor of Art History Greg Warden, “New Evidence for Etruscan Ritual: The Excavations at the Sanctuary of Poggio Colla,” will follow at 6 p.m. For more information, call 214-768-4677. (Left, bronze statuette of a warrior ca. 550 B.C.E. Florence, National Museum of Archaeology.)

SMU connection highlights landmark Etruscan exhibition

(Originally published Jan. 22, 2009.)

Etruscan gold diademSMU’s Meadows Museum honors the 15th anniversary of University Distinguished Professor of Art History P. Gregory Warden‘s groundbreaking archaeological excavation in Poggio Colla, Italy with an exhibition dedicated to the ancestors of Rome: the Etruscans.

From the Temple and the Tomb: Etruscan Treasures From Tuscany” is the most comprehensive exhibition of Etruscan art ever undertaken in the United States, with more than 400 objects spanning the 9th through 2nd centuries B.C. “New Light on the Etruscans: Fifteen Years of Excavation at Poggio Colla” will offer a look into the rare and dramatic finds from this important Etruscan site, including almost 100 objects from its sanctuary and from a habitation and center of ceramic production discovered in a field below its acropolis.

Etruscan 'canopic' urnBoth exhibitions will run from Jan. 25 to May 17. An opening reception for SMU faculty and staff is scheduled for 4:30-6 p.m. Feb. 5.

The shows join the Dallas Museum of Art’s blockbuster King Tut exhibit “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs” as part of a citywide celebration of ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean.

Featured in “From the Temple and the Tomb” are an entire temple pediment – the terracotta decoration for the front of an Etruscan temple – and objects from Etruscan tombs, including sarcophagi, ash urns, guardian figures, and gold, silver, bronze, ivory and ceramic objects that were deposited in the tombs of the wealthy. Also featured are several pieces of gold jewelry, created using techniques so advanced that they are difficult to reproduce today.

“From the Temple and the Tomb” is organized by the Meadows Museum in association with the Florence Archaeological Museum, Italy, the Italian Ministry of Culture, the Soprintendenza of Archaeology for Tuscany, and Centro Promozioni e Servizidi Arezzo. It was funded by a gift from The Meadows Foundation.

(Top right, gold diadem, late 4th century B.C., from Populonia. Bottom right, clay “canopic” urn with throne, 6th c. B.C. Florence, National Archaeological Museum.)