The Etruscan language remains only partly understood as just a handful of texts survive today. Their civilisation appear to have been extremely wealthy, perhaps through trade with the Celtic world to the north and the Greeks to the south.
Science reporter Richard Gray covered a new discovery from the SMU-sponsored dig at Poggio Colla, a key settlement in Italy for the ancient Etruscan civilization. Archaeologists previously found a 2500-year-old slab in the foundation of a monumental temple at the dig, and have determined now that sacred text on the stele, as it’s called, mentions the name “Uni,” an Etruscan fertility goddess.
The article, “Did the Etruscans follow a fertility cult? Inscribed stone slab reveals mysteries of ancient Italian civilisation,” published in the Daily Mail Online Aug. 25.
Leading the project, which has been underway for more than two decades, is archaeologist Gregory Warden, professor emeritus at SMU. Warden is co-director and principal investigator of the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project, which made the discovery.
The Mugello Valley archaeologists are announcing discovery of the goddess Uni at an exhibit in Florence on Sept. 2, “Scrittura e culto a Poggio Colla, un santuario etrusco nel Mugello,” and in a forthcoming article in the scholarly journal Etruscan Studies.
By Richard Gray
Daily Mail Online
It was a powerful and sophisticated ancient Italian civilisation that had threatened to squash the fledgling Roman state just as it was starting to emerge.
But little now remains of the Etruscan civilisation that had flourished across much of Italy between 800BC and 500BC before it was defeated and absorbed by Rome.
Archaeologists, however, believe they have made an important discovery carved into a huge stone slab fond at an ancient Etruscan temple that may reveal more about this mysterious culture.
They are translating an inscription in one of the longest Etruscan texts ever found, carved into a 500lb stone slab embedded in a temple wall at Poggio Colla.
Within the text they have discovered the name Uni – an important goddess of fertility and possibly a mother goddess.
They believe this suggests the diety had been worshipped at the ancient sanctuary where the slab was found.
Poggio Colla, in Italy’s Mugello Valley to the northeast of Florence, is thought to have been a key settlement for the ancient Etruscans and may have been home to a fertility cult.
A ceramic fragment found at the same site depicts the earliest birth scene to be shown in European art.
Dr Gregory Warden, principal investigator of the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project that made the discovery and an archaeologist at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said: ‘This discovery is one of the most important Etruscan discoveries of the last few decades.
‘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.’