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Psychology Today: Empathic People Use Social Brain Circuitry to Process Music

High-empathy people process music using their social cognitive circuitry.

Christopher Bergland for Psychology Today covered the research of Zachary Wallmark, an assistant professor in the SMU Meadows School of the Arts. Wallmark’s study with researchers at UCLA found that people with higher empathy differ from others in the way their brains process music.

The SMU-UCLA study is the first to find evidence supporting a neural account of the music-empathy connection. Also, it is among the first to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to explore how empathy affects the way we perceive music.

The researchers found that compared to low empathy people, those with higher empathy process familiar music with greater involvement of the reward system of the brain, as well as in areas responsible for processing social information.

“This may indicate that music is being perceived weakly as a kind of social entity, as an imagined or virtual human presence,” Wallmark has said. He is director of the MuSci Lab at SMU, an interdisciplinary research collective that studies — among other things — how music affects the brain.

The Psychology Today article published June 18, 2018.

Read the full article.

EXCERPT:

By Christopher Bergland
Psychology Today

Those who deeply grasp the pain or joy of other people and display “higher empathic concern” process music differently in their brains, according to a new study by researchers at Southern Methodist University and UCLA. Their paper, “Neurophysiological Effects of Trait Empathy in Music Listening,” was recently published in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.

As you can see by looking at the images at the top of the page and to the left, the SMU-UCLA researchers used fMRI neuroimaging to pinpoint specific brain areas that light up when people with varying degrees of trait empathy listen to music. Notably, the researchers found that higher empathy people process music as if it’s a pleasurable proxy for real-world human encounters and show greater involvement of brain regions associated with reward systems and social cognitive circuitry.

In the field of music psychology, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that varying degrees of trait empathy are linked to how intensely someone responds emotionally to music, his or her listening style, and overall musical preferences.

For example, recent studies have found that high-empathy people are more likely to enjoy “beautiful but sad” music. Additionally, high empathizers seem to get more intense pleasure from listening to music in general, as indicated by robust activation of their reward system in the fMRI.

The latest research on the empathy-music connection was conceived, designed, and led by Zachary Wallmark, who is a musicologist and assistant professor in the SMU Meadows School of the Arts. In 2014, Wallmark received his PhD from UCLA. He currently serves as director of the MuSci Lab, which is an interdisciplinary research collective and lab facility dedicated to the empirical study of music. Below is a YouTube clip of Wallmark describing his latest research:

Read the full article.

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KERA: Empathetic People Experience Music Differently, SMU Study Finds

“This study contributes to a growing body of evidence that music processing may piggyback upon cognitive mechanisms that originally evolved to facilitate social interaction.” — Zachary Wallmark, SMU

KERA journalist Justin Martin covered the research of Zachary Wallmark, an assistant professor in the SMU Meadows School of the Arts. Wallmark’s study with researchers at UCLA found that people with higher empathy differ from others in the way their brains process music.

The SMU-UCLA study is the first to find evidence supporting a neural account of the music-empathy connection. Also, it is among the first to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to explore how empathy affects the way we perceive music.

The researchers found that compared to low empathy people, those with higher empathy process familiar music with greater involvement of the reward system of the brain, as well as in areas responsible for processing social information.

“This may indicate that music is being perceived weakly as a kind of social entity, as an imagined or virtual human presence,” Wallmark has said. He is director of the MuSci Lab at SMU, an interdisciplinary research collective that studies — among other things — how music affects the brain.

Listen to the KERA interview, which aired June 20, 2018.

EXCERPT:

By Justin Martin
KERA News

A new study from Southern Methodist University shows that empathetic people — those who are generally more sensitive to the feelings of others — receive more pleasure from listening to music, and their brains show increased activity in areas associated with social interactions.

Researchers interviewed participants about their taste in music — songs they loved and others they hated. Then, participants were put into an MRI scanner and played different selections, including unfamiliar tunes, and researchers studied how their brain reacted to them.

All participants experienced positive activity in the brain when listening to music they loved, says Zachary Wallmark, an assistant professor of musicology at SMU, who led the study. This activity increased for empathetic people.

When played unfamiliar music they didn’t like, empathetic participants still showed activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex of the brain, an area associated with executive control and regulation of emotional reactions, Wallmark says.

“What this suggested to us is that these empathic people are hearing new music…and they tell us they dislike it after the fact…but they might be deliberately trying to ratchet down their negative reaction, maybe give more of the benefit of the doubt to this new music, even though they find it highly aversive,” Wallmark said.

Listen to the KERA interview.

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People who deeply grasp the pain or happiness of others also process music differently in the brain

Higher empathy people appear to process music like a pleasurable proxy for a human encounter — in the brain regions for reward, social awareness and regulation of social emotions.

People with higher empathy differ from others in the way their brains process music, according to a study by researchers at Southern Methodist University, Dallas and UCLA.

The researchers found that compared to low empathy people, those with higher empathy process familiar music with greater involvement of the reward system of the brain, as well as in areas responsible for processing social information.

“High-empathy and low-empathy people share a lot in common when listening to music, including roughly equivalent involvement in the regions of the brain related to auditory, emotion, and sensory-motor processing,” said lead author Zachary Wallmark, an assistant professor in the SMU Meadows School of the Arts.

But there is at least one significant difference.

Highly empathic people process familiar music with greater involvement of the brain’s social circuitry, such as the areas activated when feeling empathy for others. They also seem to experience a greater degree of pleasure in listening, as indicated by increased activation of the reward system.

“This may indicate that music is being perceived weakly as a kind of social entity, as an imagined or virtual human presence,” Wallmark said.

Researchers in 2014 reported that about 20 percent of the population is highly empathic. These are people who are especially sensitive and respond strongly to social and emotional stimuli.

The SMU-UCLA study is the first to find evidence supporting a neural account of the music-empathy connection. Also, it is among the first to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to explore how empathy affects the way we perceive music.

The new study indicates that among higher-empathy people, at least, music is not solely a form of artistic expression.

“If music was not related to how we process the social world, then we likely would have seen no significant difference in the brain activation between high-empathy and low-empathy people,” said Wallmark, who is director of the MuSci Lab at SMU, an interdisciplinary research collective that studies — among other things — how music affects the brain.

“This tells us that over and above appreciating music as high art, music is about humans interacting with other humans and trying to understand and communicate with each other,” he said.

This may seem obvious.

“But in our culture we have a whole elaborate system of music education and music thinking that treats music as a sort of disembodied object of aesthetic contemplation,” Wallmark said. “In contrast, the results of our study help explain how music connects us to others. This could have implications for how we understand the function of music in our world, and possibly in our evolutionary past.”

The researchers reported their findings in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, in the article “Neurophysiological effects of trait empathy in music listening.”

The co-authors are Choi Deblieck, with the University of Leuven, Belgium, and Marco Iacoboni, UCLA. The research was carried out at the Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center at UCLA.

“The study shows on one hand the power of empathy in modulating music perception, a phenomenon that reminds us of the original roots of the concept of empathy — ‘feeling into’ a piece of art,” said senior author Marco Iacoboni, a neuroscientist at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.

“On the other hand,” Iacoboni said, “the study shows the power of music in triggering the same complex social processes at work in the brain that are at play during human social interactions.”

Comparison of brain scans showed distinctive differences based on empathy
Participants were 20 UCLA undergraduate students. They were each scanned in an MRI machine while listening to excerpts of music that were either familiar or unfamiliar to them, and that they either liked or disliked. The familiar music was selected by participants prior to the scan.

Afterward each person completed a standard questionnaire to assess individual differences in empathy — for example, frequently feeling sympathy for others in distress, or imagining oneself in another’s shoes.

The researchers then did controlled comparisons to see which areas of the brain during music listening are correlated with empathy.

Analysis of the brain scans showed that high empathizers experienced more activity in the dorsal striatum, part of the brain’s reward system, when listening to familiar music, whether they liked the music or not.

The reward system is related to pleasure and other positive emotions. Malfunction of the area can lead to addictive behaviors.

Empathic people process music with involvement of social cognitive circuitry
In addition, the brain scans of higher empathy people in the study also recorded greater activation in medial and lateral areas of the prefrontal cortex that are responsible for processing the social world, and in the temporoparietal junction, which is critical to analyzing and understanding others’ behaviors and intentions.

Typically, those areas of the brain are activated when people are interacting with, or thinking about, other people. Observing their correlation with empathy during music listening might indicate that music to these listeners functions as a proxy for a human encounter.

Beyond analysis of the brain scans, the researchers also looked at purely behavioral data — answers to a survey asking the listeners to rate the music afterward.

Those data also indicated that higher empathy people were more passionate in their musical likes and dislikes, such as showing a stronger preference for unfamiliar music.

Precise neurophysiological relationship between empathy and music is largely unexplored
A large body of research has focused on the cognitive neuroscience of empathy — how we understand and experience the thoughts and emotions of other people. Studies point to a number of areas of the prefrontal, insular, and cingulate cortices as being relevant to what brain scientists refer to as social cognition.

Studies have shown that activation of the social circuitry in the brain varies from individual to individual. People with more empathic personalities show increased activity in those areas when performing socially relevant tasks, including watching a needle penetrating skin, listening to non-verbal vocal sounds, observing emotional facial expressions, or seeing a loved one in pain.

In the field of music psychology, a number of recent studies have suggested that empathy is related to intensity of emotional responses to music, listening style, and musical preferences — for example, empathic people are more likely to enjoy sad music.

“This study contributes to a growing body of evidence,” Wallmark said, “that music processing may piggyback upon cognitive mechanisms that originally evolved to facilitate social interaction.” — Margaret Allen, SMU

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Joint Study on Gender Disparity in Art Museum Directorships Shows Gap Persists Despite Gains

While incremental gains were observed, a new study shows that women still hold fewer than 50% of directorships, earn less than male counterparts, and typically lead institutions with smaller budgets

The Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) and the National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) at Southern Methodist University in Dallas today released findings from the second iteration of their gender gap study, which was designed to deepen understanding of the gender disparity in art museum directorships to help AAMD member institutions advance towards greater gender equity.

Through a combination of quantitative analysis of 2016 data collected from AAMD member institutions and interviews with female museum directors and executive search consultants who specialize in recruitment for art museums, NCAR and AAMD researchers – led by Zannie Voss, director, NCAR, and Christine Anagnos, executive director, AAMD – examined the ongoing and historical factors of the gender gap in art museum directorships, and compared their findings to those of the previous study, conducted in 2013.

While incremental gains have been observed in the last three years, the study found that the gender gap persists: women still hold fewer than 50% of directorships and, on average, earn less than their male counterparts. The study also found that museum type and budget size were influential factors on representation and salary differentials.

In 2016, AAMD conducted a survey of its members, collecting data from 210 respondents that included each institution’s operating budget, endowment, the salary of the director (or top leader), the director’s gender, and the self-reported museum type (e.g. encyclopedic, contemporary, etc.). Of these 210 museums, 181 also participated in the 2013 survey, allowing for examination of trends. The study sought to answer three main questions: What is the current state of women in art museum directorships? How has the gender gap in art museum directorships shifted in the past three years? What are some factors that may drive the gender gap? The NCAR and AAMD study had several key findings:

  • While men continue to outnumber women in director roles, there has been a 5% increase in female directorships from 2013: women represented 48% of art museum directorships in 2016 (compared to 43% in 2013).
  • There are clear disparities in gender representation depending on operating budget size: the majority of museums with budgets of less than $15 million are run by a female, rather than a male, director. The reverse is true for museums with budgets of over $15 million, where female representation decreases as budget size increases.
  • Women are at a salary disadvantage: on average, female directors earned 73 cents for every dollar that male directors earned.
  • When segmented by operating budget, the gender disparities are more nuanced:

    For museums with a budget of over $15 million—roughly the top quarter of museums—female directors earned 75 cents for every dollar a male earned, an improvement from 2013, when women earned only 70 cents per dollar earned by a man.
    For the other three-quarters of member museums (those with budgets of less than $15 million), female directors on average earned 98 cents to every dollar earned by a man. This represents a reversal from three years ago, when female directors at these same museums earned an average of $1.01 for each dollar earned by their male counterparts.

  • Women hold the majority of directorships in College/University museums (60%) and Culturally Specific museums (57%). Men hold the majority of directorships at Single Artist (67%), Encyclopedic (59%) and Contemporary (54%) museums.
  • Museum types, which are also tied to budget size, also help reveal salary dynamics at play: some museum types with higher average budgets have less of a salary gap as compared to some museums with lower average budget size. The biggest pay disparity is at Encyclopedic museums, where female directors average only 69 cents for every $1 of their male counterparts, while the smallest gap is at Culturally Specific institutions, where women earn 91 cents for every dollar a male director earns.

Drawing from interviews with executive search consultants and female museum directors, the report also includes a qualitative analysis that examines the personal as well as the institutional barriers in achieving gender equality in the field. Overall, interviewees observed that while progress is incremental, the needle is moving, with changes accomplished through cultural shifts within the field and in broader society, and with the emergence of a new generation of leaders.

In addition to Voss and Anagnos, co-authors of the study are Veronica Treviño, SMU MA/MBA Class of 2017, and Alison D. Wade, Chief Administrator, Association of Art Museum Directors. The authors gratefully acknowledge and thank the members of the Association of Art Museum Directors and, specifically, the following art museum directors and executive search consultants for their perspective: Gretchen Dietrich (Utah Museum of Fine Arts), Madeleine Grynsztejn (Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago), Sarah James (Phillips Oppenheim), Laurie Nash (Russell Reynold Associates), Lisa Phillips (New Museum), Kimerly Rorschach (Seattle Art Museum), Sally M. Sterling (Spencer Stuart), and Belinda Tate (Kalamazoo Institute of Arts).

About AAMD
The Association of Art Museum Directors advances the profession by cultivating leadership capabilities of directors, advocating for the field, and fostering excellence in art museums. An agile, issues-driven organization, AAMD has three desired outcomes: engagement, leadership, and shared learning. Further information about AAMD’s professional practice guidelines and position papers is available at aamd.org.

About NCAR
In 2012, the Meadows School of the Arts and Cox School of Business at SMU launched the National Center for Arts Research (NCAR). The vision of NCAR is to act as a catalyst for the transformation and sustainability of the national arts and cultural community. The goals of the Center are to unlock insights on: 1) arts attendance and patronage; 2) understanding how managerial decisions, arts attendance, and patronage affect one another; and 3) fiscal trends and fiscal stability of the arts in the U.S., and to create an in-depth assessment of the industry that allows arts and cultural leaders to make more informed decisions and improve the health of their organizations. More information about NCAR and its reports, white papers, and tools can be found at smu.edu/artsresearch.

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Two faculty win NEH fellowships to study music and human brain; quest for Kurdish state

The National Endowment for the Humanities named SMU professors Zachary Wallmark and Sabri Ates as fellowship grant recipients in January — the only two recipients in North Texas for the current funding cycle.

Wallmark, assistant professor and chair of music history at SMU Meadows School of the Arts, is using music studies, cognitive sciences and original brain imaging experiments to research the nature of our emotional response to music.

“I am deeply honored to receive this recognition,” Wallmark said. “With the support of the NEH, I hope in my work to help people better understand music’s grip on human emotion and imagination.”

Ates, associate professor in the Clements Department of History, is drawing on a variety of archival sources from different languages to write Sheikh Abdulqadir Nehri (d. 1925) and the Pursuit of an Independent Kurdistan. In the book, Ates will explore the quest for a Kurdish state between 1880-1925, when the creation of such a state emerged as a distinct possibility and then quickly unraveled.

“What this grant tells us is that our work has national relevance,” Ates said. “Recognition of SMU’s faculty work by a prestigious institution like NEH further cements SMU’s standing as a research university. With the support of NEH, I hope to answer one of the enduring questions of the contemporary Middle East: The Kurdish statelessness.”

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at www.neh.gov.

This is the first time since 2010 that two awards were granted to SMU faculty members within the same funding cycle. More recently, history professor Alexis McCrossen received the fellowship in 2015 and assistant professor of English Timothy Cassedy earned it in 2014.

“NEH fellowships are among the most competitive humanities research opportunities in the nation, with a funding rate of approximately seven percent,” said Meadows Dean Sam Holland. “We are delighted that Zach has won this recognition, which is significant for the Meadows Music Division and reflects the growing visibility and stature of SMU on the national research stage.”

“Recognition from the NEH reinforces that our faculty garner national and international recognition for their research,” said Dedman Dean Thomas DiPiero. “Professor Ates’ work is very timely as the world struggles to determine how best to address our needs for greater intercultural understanding.”

Wallmark teaches courses in American popular music, including opera history and the psychology of music, and serves as director of Meadows’ new MuSci Lab, an interdisciplinary research group and lab facility dedicated to the scientific study of music. His first book, Timbre and Musical Meaning, is under contract with Oxford University Press. He will be combining his NEH support with a sabbatical from Meadows for a full year of dedicated research and writing time.

Ates’ research focuses on Ottoman-Iranian relations, Kurdish history, borderlands and the borderland peoples, and the history of sectarianism in the Middle East. His first book Tunalı Hilmi Bey: Osmanlıdan Cumhuriyet’e Bir Aydın, (Istanbul: Iletişim Yayınları, 2009), examines competing projects of Ottoman intellectuals to keep the disparate parts of the Empire together, as well as their responses to the age of nationalism and the birth of the Turkish Republic. Partially based on his award-winning dissertation, his second book, Ottoman-Iranian Borderlands: Making a Boundary (Cambridge University Press, 2013) discusses the making of the boundaries that modern states of Iraq, Turkey and Iran share.

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New York Observer: Is Bigger Always More? How U.S. Museums Fared in 2016

The New York Observer newspaper relied on the expertise of Zannie Voss, director of SMU’s National Center for Arts Research (NCAR), for an article about how museums are faring at a time with tighter budgets, less revenue and an evolution in museum-going behavior.

Voss is chair and professor of arts management and arts entrepreneurship in the Meadows School of the Arts and the Cox School of Business at SMU. She has a worked as consultant on projects for the Irvine Foundation, the League of American Orchestras, Theatre Development Fund and Theatre Communications Group, co-authoring TCG’s Theatre Facts since 1998. She has published over a dozen articles in academic and practitioner journals on research examining the strategic factors that influence organizational performance in the arts using multiple stakeholder measures.

The Observer article, “Is Bigger Always More? How U.S. Museums Fared in 2016,” published Dec. 26, 2016.

Read the full story.

EXCERPT:

By Daniel Grant
Observer

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times? The Metropolitan Museum of Art set a new attendance record in fiscal year 2016, bringing in 6.7 million visitors, the fifth year in a row that more than six million people have come through the doors in a given year. However, the institution reported a $10 million general operating deficit, requiring it to institute a hiring freeze, lay off dozens of staffers and put on hold an addition to the Lila Acheson Wallace Wing.

This might be just an oddity, but other art museums have experienced financial troubles as well. The Museum of Modern Art has offered early retirement buy-outs for its older employees in order to trim its budget, and a $3 million deficit has compelled the Brooklyn Museum to offer its staff early retirement packages. The San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, which is planning an expansion that will triple its exhibition space, is eliminating eight full-time and 20 part-time employees, and the Cincinnati Museum Center has cut 60 jobs in order to stem the flow of red ink while it prepares its own expansion.

“Museums are in a period of transition, as they are spending more on marketing … and attracting more people through new educational, digital and other programming while garnering less revenue per person who attends,” said Zannie Voss, director of the National Center for Arts Research at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Spending by the average visitor has declined from $25.81 in 2012 to $17.52 in 2015, according to data from DataArts, one of NCAR’s partners, for more than 100 art museums around the country. Meanwhile, those same institutions have increased their programming by 67 percent, raising their costs while earning less per visitor.

“Museums are striving for larger and more diverse audiences, looking to increase accessibility and remove the economic barriers to visiting, and they are creating new programs to engage people,” Voss said. Program revenues and fundraising have not been keeping up, though, she said, noting that the costs of running the sampled museums have risen 10 percent above inflation and only trustee giving, at nine percent, has kept pace. Growth in the other principal sources of raising funds— through individuals, foundations, corporations and government grants—“have not been as robust and, in the case of individual giving, represent a decrease of seven percent in absolute dollars.”

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Discovery News: Etruscan Inscription Reveals Name of Goddess

“Etruscan sanctuaries are often dedicated to more than one deity. And we have possible indications that the cult may have changed in nature. As always, you answer one question but raise many more,” Warden added.

Science news site Discovery News 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, “Etruscan Inscription Reveals Name of Goddess,” published 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.

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Discovery News
The name of a powerful goddess of fertility has emerged from a 2,500-year-old inscribed slab, revealing what might be the longest Etruscan inscription on stone.

Written in the puzzling Etruscan language, the stone bears the name of Uni, the supreme goddess of the Etruscan pantheon — basically the equivalent to the Greek goddess Hera and the Roman Juno.

Weighing about 500 pounds and nearly four feet tall by two feet wide, the sandstone slab, or stele, was discovered some months ago during the final stages of two decades of digging at Poggio Colla, some 22 miles miles north-east of Florence in the Mugello Valley.

It was found embedded in the foundations of a stone temple.

The 6th century B.C. slab is heavily abraded and chipped and contains text, written right to left, of more than 120 characters. It is divided into words by means of three vertically aligned dots.

“Cleaning at a restoration center in Florence has allowed better visibility of the inscribed signs, making it possible to identify a larger sequence of letters and words,” Adriano Maggiani, a former professor at the University of Venice and one of the scholars working to decipher the inscription, told Discovery News.

“The presence in the inscription of the name Uni suggests the text has a religious character,” he added.

Read the full story.

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Daily Mail: Did the Etruscans follow a fertility cult? Inscribed stone slab reveals mysteries of ancient Italian civilisation

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.

Read the full story.

EXCERPT:

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.’

Read the full story.

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Live Science: Goddess’s Name Inscribed in Lost Language on Ancient Tablet

The inscription might express the laws of the sanctuary, Warden said, perhaps outlining the ceremonies that took place there. Archaeologists have deciphered another word on the tablet, “Tina,” which refers to the head god of the Etruscan Pantheon (much like Zeus for the Greeks).

Science reporter Stephanie Pappas 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, “Goddess’s Name Inscribed in Lost Language on Ancient Tablet,” published Aug. 26.

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.

Read the full story.

EXCERPT:

By Stephanie Pappas
Live Science

An ancient tablet recently unearthed in Tuscany has revealed its first secret: the engraved name of a goddess linked to fertility.

The 500-pound (227 kilograms) stone slab, or stele, was unearthed earlier this year at Poggio Colla, a sixth century B.C. site built by the Etruscans. The stele bears a long inscription in a language that has not been used for 2,500 years, project archaeologist Gregory Warden, a professor emeritus at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, told Live Science in April.

Now, translation is underway and archaeologists have discovered that the tablet references the goddess Uni.

“We can at this point affirm that this discovery is one of the most important Etruscan discoveries of the last few decades,” Warden said in a statement. “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.”

Read the full story.

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One of the most significant Etruscan discoveries in decades names female goddess Uni

One of the longest Etruscan texts ever found, the inscription’s mention of Uni may indicate she was patroness of the Poggio Colla cult, with stone’s language spelling out ceremonial religious rituals

Archaeologists translating a very rare inscription on an ancient Etruscan temple stone have discovered the name Uni — an important female goddess.

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.

The mention is part of a sacred text that is possibly the longest such Etruscan inscription ever discovered on stone, said archaeologist Gregory Warden, professor emeritus at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, main sponsor of the archaeological dig.

Scientists on the research discovered the ancient stone slab embedded as part of a temple wall at Poggio Colla, a 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.

Now Etruscan language experts are studying the 500-pound slab — called a stele (STEE-lee) — 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 veers from others in that it’s not a funerary text.

The Mugello Valley archaeologists had planned to announce discovery of the goddess Uni at an exhibit in Florence on Aug. 27, “Scrittura e culto a Poggio Colla, un santuario etrusco nel Mugello,” and in a forthcoming article in the scholarly journal Etruscan Studies. The exhibit opening has been delayed to Sept. 2 due to the recent devastating earthquake in areas of Italy unrelated to the Poggio Colla research.

Text may specify the religious ritual for temple ceremonies dedicated to the goddess
It’s possible the text contains the dedication of the sanctuary, or some part of it, such as the temple proper, so the expectation is that it will reveal the early beliefs of a lost culture fundamental to western traditions.

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.

Etruscans once ruled Rome, influencing that civilization in everything from religion and government to art and architecture. A highly cultured people, Etruscans were also very religious and their belief system permeated all aspects of their culture and life.

Inscription may reveal data to understand concepts and rituals, writing and language
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, thus funerary in nature.

“We can at this point affirm that this discovery is one of the most important Etruscan discoveries of the last few decades,” Warden said. “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.”

Besides being possibly the longest Etruscan inscription on stone, it is also one of the three longest sacred texts to date.

One section of the text refers to “tinaś,” a reference to Tina, the name of the supreme deity of the Etruscans. Tina was equivalent to ancient Greece’s Zeus or Rome’s Jupiter.

Slab was once an imposing and monumental symbol of authority
The slab was discovered embedded in the foundations of a monumental temple where it had been buried for more than 2,500 years. At one time it would have been displayed as an imposing and monumental symbol of authority, said Warden, president and professor of archaeology at Franklin University Switzerland.

The text is being studied by two noted experts on the Etruscan language, including Maggiani, who is an epigrapher, and Rex Wallace, professor of classics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who is a comparative linguist.

A hologram of the stele will be shown at the Florence exhibit, as conservation of the stele is ongoing at the conservation laboratories of the Archaeological Superintendency in Florence. Digital documentation is being done by experts from the architecture department of the University of Florence. The sandstone is heavily abraded and chipped, so cleaning should allow scholars to read the inscription.

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.

Besides SMU, other collaborating institutions at Mugello Valley Archaeological Project include Franklin and Marshall College, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology, the Center for the Study of Ancient Italy at The University of Texas at Austin, The Open University (UK), and Franklin University Switzerland. — Margaret Allen, SMU

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CNN: 2500-year-old slab reveals lost language

A team of scientists have uncovered a 2,500-year-old slab that may reveal details about the ancient Etruscan civilization.

Video reporter Ben Kruger with CNN covered SMU-sponsored research at Italy’s Poggio Colla site where archaeologists have found what may be rare sacred text in the lost language of the Etruscans. The text is inscribed on a large 6th century BC sandstone slab and could reveal name of the god or goddess that was worshipped at the site.

Kruger’s report, “2500-year-old slab reveals lost language,” published April 1.

Watch the video on CNN.

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SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools. For more information see www.smu.edu.

SMU has an uplink facility located on campus for live TV, radio, or online interviews. To speak with an SMU expert or book an SMU guest in the studio, call SMU News & Communications at 214-768-7650.

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TECH Insider: Archaeologists just discovered sacred text in mysterious language on a 2,500-year-old stone

Archaeologists in Italy recently uncovered an ancient slab that could unlock mysteries of the Etruscan culture. Here’s what scientists are hoping it will tell them.

Video journalist Grace Raver at TECH Insider covered SMU sponsored research at Italy’s Poggio Colla site where archaeologists have found what may be rare sacred text in the lost language of the Etruscans. The text is inscribed on a large 6th century BC sandstone slab and could reveal name of the god or goddess that was worshipped at the site.

The video report, “Archaeologists just discovered sacred text in mysterious language on a 2,500-year-old stone,” published March 31.

View the video at TECH Insider here.

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SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools. For more information see www.smu.edu.

SMU has an uplink facility located on campus for live TV, radio, or online interviews. To speak with an SMU expert or book an SMU guest in the studio, call SMU News & Communications at 214-768-7650.

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Discovery News: Etruscan Inscription Offers Rare Clue to Mysterious People

Researchers found the inscribed slab near Florence and believe it might hold secrets behind the language of Italy’s pre-Roman culture

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Science reporter Rossella Lorenzi Discovery News segment “Digging History” covered SMU sponsored research at Italy’s Poggio Colla site where archaeologists have found what may be rare sacred text in the lost language of the Etruscans. The text is inscribed on a large 6th century BC sandstone slab and could reveal name of the god or goddess that was worshipped at the site.

The article, “Etruscan Inscription Offers Rare Clue to Mysterious People,” published March 31.

Read the full story.

EXCERPT:

By Rosella Lorenzi
Discovery News

Archaeologists have unearthed an inscribed sandstone slab in Italy that features what may be a rare sacred text written in the mysterious Etruscan language.

The finding promises to yield a wealth of new knowledge about one of the ancient world’s most fascinating and mysterious civilizations.

Weighing about 500 pounds and nearly four feet tall by two feet wide, the slab was unearthed at Poggio Colla, some 22 miles miles north-east of Florence in the Mugello Valley.

Intact, Packed Etruscan Tomb Found
The stone had been buried for more than 2,500 years in the foundations of a monumental temple at the Etruscan site. It was heavily abraded and chipped, with one side reddened possibly from burning.

According to archaeologist Gregory Warden, co-director and principal investigator of the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project, which made the discovery, the 6th-century B.C. slab has at least 70 legible letters and punctuation marks.

“Now if we could only unravel that text,” Warden, professor emeritus at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, told Discovery News.

Skeleton of Ancient Prince Reveals Etruscan Life
He explained that it will probably take months of study by Rex Wallace, a noted expert on the Etruscan language at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, before the researchers can say anything definitive about the text written on the stele, as such slabs are called.

“At this point we have just finished cleaning the stele, and Professor Wallace is working from photos. He will return to Italy in June to continue to work on it,” Warden said.

Warden speculates the text may refer to a goddess that was worshiped at the site.

“The center of worship was an underground fissure that was ritually treated after the destruction of the temple,” Warden said.

Read the full story.

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SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools. For more information see www.smu.edu.

SMU has an uplink facility located on campus for live TV, radio, or online interviews. To speak with an SMU expert or book an SMU guest in the studio, call SMU News & Communications at 214-768-7650.

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Fox News: 2,500-year old slab unearthed, offers glimpse into the ancient Etruscan world

Researchers found the inscribed slab near Florence and believe it might hold secrets behind the language of Italy’s pre-Roman culture

inscriptions.jpg__800x600_q85_crop

The Fox News segment “Digging History” covered SMU sponsored research at Italy’s Poggio Colla site where archaeologists have found what may be rare sacred text in the lost language of the Etruscans. The text is inscribed on a large 6th century BC sandstone slab and could reveal name of the god or goddess that was worshipped at the site.

The article, “2,500-year old slab unearthed, offers glimpse into the ancient Etruscan world,” published March 31.

Read the full story.

EXCERPT:

Fox News
Archaeologists have unearthed a rare text from an ancient temple in Italy that could reveal new details about the Etruscan civilization.

The text is inscribed on a large sandstone slab from the 6th century B.C. and may provide insight into Etruscan worship of a god or goddess.

“This is probably going to be a sacred text, and will be remarkable for telling us about the early belief system of a lost culture that is fundamental to western traditions,” said archaeologist Gregory Warden, in a statement released by Southern Methodist University.

Warden, professor of archaeology at Franklin University, Switzerland, is professor emeritus at Southern Methodist University and co-director and principal investigator of the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project, which made the discovery.

The Etruscan civilization existed from approximately the 8th century B.C. to the 3rd century in what is now central and northern Italy. Etruscans influenced many aspects of the Roman Empire, such as religion, government, art and architecture, according to experts.

Weighing about 500 pounds, the slab is nearly four feet tall and more than two feet wide. Warden notes that the slab has about 70 legible letters and punctuation marks.

The slab, or stele, was found in the foundations of an Etruscan temple northeast of Florence, where it had been buried for more than 2,500 years.

Read the full story.

Follow SMUResearch.com on twitter at @smuresearch.

SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools. For more information see www.smu.edu.

SMU has an uplink facility located on campus for live TV, radio, or online interviews. To speak with an SMU expert or book an SMU guest in the studio, call SMU News & Communications at 214-768-7650.

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Smithsonian: 2,500-Year-Old Monument Could Help Crack the Mysterious Etruscan Language

Researchers found the inscribed slab near Florence and believe it might hold secrets behind the language of Italy’s pre-Roman culture

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Science reporter Jason Daley with Smithsonian covered SMU sponsored research at Italy’s Poggio Colla site where archaeologists have found what may be rare sacred text in the lost language of the Etruscans. The text is inscribed on a large 6th century BC sandstone slab and could reveal name of the god or goddess that was worshipped at the site.

The article, “2,500-Year-Old Monument Could Help Crack the Mysterious Etruscan Language,” published March 31.

Read the full story.

EXCERPT:

By Jason Daley
Smithsonian.com

We know a lot about the ancient Romans—from their legal system to how they liked to cook their chicken stew. We have thousands of monuments, books, and archeological sites detailing their accomplishments and famous individuals. But before 500 B.C. when the Romans took over, the Estruscans ruled the central and northern portion of the Italian peninsula. And this culture remains an enigma to modern archaeologists.

Of particular mystery is the Estruscan language, which doesn’t seem related to other nearby languages. And researchers have uncovered few inscriptions or documents to help us figure it out—until now. Archaeologists of the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project recently uncovered a 500-pound, four-foot by two-foot stele, or monumental marker at Poggio Colla site, northeast of Florence. The sandstone slab originally stood in front of an Etruscan temple and is inscribed with 70 legible letters and punctuation marks.

“We hope to make inroads into the Etruscan language,” Gregory Warden, co-director and principal investigator of the project who made the discovery, says in a press release. “Long inscriptions are rare, especially one this long, so there will be new words that we have never seen before, since it is not a funerary text.”

Most of what historians know about the Etruscans comes from their elaborate burials, which are still sometimes found in the Italian countryside. But it has been difficult finding documents about their government, daily life, and other aspects of Etruscan culture. Even though scholars know they were one of the most religious peoples in the ancient world, they don’t even know the names of their gods, though Warden hopes the new stele may finally reveal that.

“Inscriptions of more than a few words, on permanent materials, are rare for the Etruscans, who tended to use perishable media like linen cloth books or wax tablets,” Etruscan scholar Jean MacIntosh Turfa of the University of Pennsylvania Museum says in the release. “This stone stele is evidence of a permanent religious cult with monumental dedications, at least as early as the Late Archaic Period, from about 525 to 480 BCE. Its re-use in the foundations of a slightly later sanctuary structure points to deep changes in the town and its social structure.”

Researchers are currently cleaning and scanning the stele in Florence, and they will turn the inscriptions over to an expert in the Etruscan language to decipher the text after that.

Read the full story.

Follow SMUResearch.com on twitter at @smuresearch.

SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools. For more information see www.smu.edu.

SMU has an uplink facility located on campus for live TV, radio, or online interviews. To speak with an SMU expert or book an SMU guest in the studio, call SMU News & Communications at 214-768-7650.

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Il Tirreno: Trovata stele etrusca in Mugello: “scoperta straordinaria”

Secondo gli scienziati il testo riportato sulla pietra potrebbe dare un contributo decisivo alla ricostruzione del linguaggio di questo popolo.

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Italian newspaper Il Tirreno in Italy covered SMU sponsored research at Italy’s Poggio Colla site where archaeologists have found what may be rare sacred text in the lost language of the Etruscans. The text is inscribed on a large 6th century BC sandstone slab and could reveal name of the god or goddess that was worshipped at the site.

The article, “Una stele per svelare il linguaggio degli Etruschi,” published March 31.

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EXCERPT:

Il Tirreno
FIRENZE. E’ una scoperta che potrebbe dare un contributo decisivo per ricostruire il linguaggio degli Etruschi. Un gruppo di ricercatori del Mugello Valley Archaeological Project ha portato alla luce una stele che riporta una scrittura etrusca. La scoperta è stata fatta nel sito di Poggio Colla in Toscana. La pietra, che pesa 227 chili ed è alta poco più di un metro, faceva parte di un tempio sacro che 2500 anni fa venne demolito per costruirne uno più grande.

La stele si presenta ben conservata. Contiene 70 lettere leggibili e segni di punteggiatura, caratteristiche che la rendono uno dei più lunghi esempi di scrittura etrusca mai rinvenuti finora. Gli scienziati sono convinti che le parole e i concetti sulla stele siano una rarissima testimonianza di questa civiltà, considerando che finora le nostre conoscenze sugli etruschi sono legate unicamente a, necropoli, tombe e oggetti funerari. La traduzione del testo sarà affidata all’Università del Massachusetts di Amherst.

“Le scoperte etrusche in Mugello, che hanno portato poi alla realizzazione del bellissimo Museo comprensoriale di Dicomano, trovano con la stele scavata dal Mugello Archaeological Project un punto di riferimento essenziale”. Lo afferma il presidente del Consiglio regionale Eugenio Giani, in una nota sul ritrovamento nel sito di Poggio Colla.

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SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools. For more information see www.smu.edu.

SMU has an uplink facility located on campus for live TV, radio, or online interviews. To speak with an SMU expert or book an SMU guest in the studio, call SMU News & Communications at 214-768-7650.

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Wired.it: Una stele per svelare il linguaggio degli Etruschi

Il ritrovamento di un stele etrusca potrebbe aiutare a ricostruire il linguaggio di questo popolo antico, arricchendo anche lo studio sul funzionamento delle città e della società.

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Italian science reporter Anna Lisa Bonfranceschi with Wired in Italy covered SMU sponsored research at Italy’s Poggio Colla site where archaeologists have found what may be rare sacred text in the lost language of the Etruscans. The text is inscribed on a large 6th century BC sandstone slab and could reveal name of the god or goddess that was worshipped at the site.

The article, “Una stele per svelare il linguaggio degli Etruschi,” published March 30.

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EXCERPT:

By Anna Lisa Bonfranceschi
Wired.it

Alta più di un metro e pesante oltre 200 chili, ricorda la stele di Rosetta. Ma invece di essere egiziana è etrusca e contiene circa 70 lettere e alcuni tratti di punteggiatura – un linguaggio in parte perso – che potrebbe aiutare a capire qualcosa di più sulla cultura degli antichi Etruschi, ricostruita soprattutto grazie alle necropoli e agli oggetti funerari.

La lastra in questione risale a 2.500 anni fa, è in arenaria ed è stata ritrovata nel sito di Poggio Colla, in Toscana, nelle fondamenta di un tempio, dove probabilmente veniva esposta come simbolo di autorità, come ha spiegato Gregory Warden del Mugello Valley Archaeological Project, che ha ritrovato la pietra. Pietra che si spera possa aiutare a far luce sul linguaggio degli Etruschi, grazie alla lunghezza del testo rinvenuto e al fatto che, non trattandosi di un testo funerario, probabilmente saranno presenti parole nuove. “Sappiamo già come funziona la grammatica etrusca, quali sono i verbi, gli oggetti, e alcune delle parole”, ha aggiunto Warden: “ma speriamo che l’analisi della lastra ci riveli il nome del dio o della dea che veniva adorata in questo sito”, richiamando il grande peso avuto dalla religione nella civiltà etrusca.

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SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools. For more information see www.smu.edu.

SMU has an uplink facility located on campus for live TV, radio, or online interviews. To speak with an SMU expert or book an SMU guest in the studio, call SMU News & Communications at 214-768-7650.

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Christian Science Monitor: 2,500-year-old slab offers window into ancient Etruscan faith

Archaeologists unearthed a big Etruscan artifact in Italy – a big deal considering how little is known about the ancient civilization’s language and religion.

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Science reporter Story Hinckley with The Christian Science Monitor covered SMU sponsored research at Italy’s Poggio Colla site where archaeologists have found what may be rare sacred text in the lost language of the Etruscans. The text is inscribed on a large 6th century BC sandstone slab and could reveal name of the god or goddess that was worshipped at the site.

The article, “2,500-year-old slab offers window into ancient Etruscan faith,” published March 30.

Read the full story.

EXCERPT:

By Story Hinckley
The Christian Science Monitor

A large sandstone slab dating back to the 6th century BC could hold clues about the religious beliefs of ancient Etruscans, if only archaeologists could read it.

Uncovered from an Etruscan temple in Tuscany after being buried for over 2,500 years, researchers believe the stone holds an important religious text. The 500-pound stele (the term that archaeologists use for such slabs) measures four feet tall by two feet wide and holds roughly 70 letters and punctuation marks.

Because of the rarity of Etruscan artifacts, not much is known about the Etruscan language. The little knowledge on the ancient language is limited to specific language written on funerary objects, which make up the majority of Etruscan discoveries. In translating the large stele, archaeologists will establish a broader understanding of Etruscan letters and words.

“We hope to make inroads into the Etruscan language,” archaeologist Gregory Warden, co-director and principle investigator of the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project and professor at Franklin University Switzerland, said in a press release. “Long inscriptions are rare, especially one this long, so there will be new words that we have never seen before, since it is not a funerary text.”

Archaeologists also say the artifact’s language could tell them more about Etruscan religion, and in turn more about the Romans, who were influenced by the Etruscan way of life.

“This is probably going to be a sacred text, and will be remarkable for telling us about the early belief system of a lost culture that is fundamental to western traditions,” added Dr. Warden.

Read the full story.

Follow SMUResearch.com on twitter at @smuresearch.

SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools. For more information see www.smu.edu.

SMU has an uplink facility located on campus for live TV, radio, or online interviews. To speak with an SMU expert or book an SMU guest in the studio, call SMU News & Communications at 214-768-7650.

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Daily Mail: Sacred text found in Italy could unlock the secrets of the Etruscan religion

Rare 6th century BC slab inscribed in a lost language may contain the names of ancient gods

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Science reporter Abigail Beall with The Daily Mail covered SMU sponsored research at Italy’s Poggio Colla site where archaeologists have found what may be rare sacred text in the lost language of the Etruscans. The text is inscribed on a large 6th century BC sandstone slab and could reveal name of the god or goddess that was worshipped at the site.

The article, “Sacred text found in Italy could unlock the secrets of the Etruscan religion,” published March 29.

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EXCERPT:

By Abigail Beall
The Daily Mail

The Etruscans were a mysterious civilisation from ancient Italy, and although a number of artefacts from their time have been found, little is known about the group’s belief system.

Researchers recently uncovered a 2,500-year-old sandstone tablet believed to date back to the time of the Etruscans, inscribed in a lost language.

And now archaeologists believe this slab could reveal more about the group’s religion and may even give away the name of a god or goddess.

The lengthy text is inscribed on a large 6th century BC sandstone slab, uncovered from an Etruscan temple.

The civilisation lived in ancient Italy from the 8th century BC to the 2nd century BC.

‘This is probably going to be a sacred text, and will be remarkable for telling us about the early belief system of a lost culture that is fundamental to western traditions,’ said archaeologist Professor Gregory Warden, principal investigator of the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project, which made the discovery.

Finding a new religious artefact like this is rare, the researchers said.

Most Etruscan discoveries are typically grave and funeral objects, for example.

The slab weighs around 500lbs (227 kg) and it is nearly 4 feet (1.2 metres) tall by more than 2 feet (0.6 metres) wide.

It has at least 70 legible letters and punctuation marks, said Professor Warden, main sponsor of the project.

It is likely to contain words in the lost language that have never been seen before.
The slab was discovered in the foundations of a monumental temple where it had been buried for more than 2,500 years.

Read the full story.

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SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools. For more information see www.smu.edu.

SMU has an uplink facility located on campus for live TV, radio, or online interviews. To speak with an SMU expert or book an SMU guest in the studio, call SMU News & Communications at 214-768-7650.

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Archaeology: Inscribed Etruscan Stele Unearthed in Italy

Archaeology, the publication of the Archaeological Institute of America, covered the SMU sponsored research of the Mugello Valley Project in Italy, where a rare religious Etruscan artifact has been discovered.

The article, “Inscribed Etruscan Stele Unearthed in Italy,” published March 29, 2016.

See the story here.

EXCERPT:

Archaeology
DALLAS, TEXAS — The excavation of a temple at the Poggio Colla site in Tuscany has yielded a four-foot-tall stele inscribed in the Etruscan language. But the stone is heavily abraded and chipped, and will have to be cleaned before scholars can read it.

“This is probably going to be a sacred text, and will be remarkable for telling us about the early belief system of a lost culture that is fundamental to western traditions,” archaeologist Gregory Warden of the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project said in a press release.

The inscription, which dates to the sixth century B.C., may contain new words, and even the name of a god or goddess. The stone was reused in the foundation of a monumental temple some 2,500 years ago.

“This stone stele is evidence of a permanent religious cult with monumental dedications, at least as early as the Late Archaic Period, from about 525 to 480 B.C. Its re-use in the foundations of a slightly later sanctuary structure points to deep changes in the town and its social structure,” explained Etruscan scholar Jean MacIntosh Turfa of the University of Pennsylvania Museum.

See the story here.

Follow SMUResearch.com on twitter at @smuresearch.

SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools. For more information see www.smu.edu.

SMU has an uplink facility located on campus for live TV, radio, or online interviews. To speak with an SMU expert or book an SMU guest in the studio, call SMU News & Communications at 214-768-7650.

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Six new cities added to the Top 20 lists of arts-vibrant cities in the U.S. — data-driven assessment ranks cities by arts and cultural assets

SMU’s National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) releases Second Annual Arts Vibrancy Index

Double click to open and explore interactive heat map.
Double click to open and explore interactive heat map.

SMU’s National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) today released its second annual Arts Vibrancy Index, which ranks more than 900 communities across the country, examining the level of supply, demand, and government support for the arts in each city. This year, the report features six new communities, with three states – Hawaii, Oregon and Texas – appearing in the index for the first time. The new cities featured on the lists are Portland, Oregon; Austin, Texas; and Kansas City, Missouri, in the top 20 large cities list; and Maui, Hawaii; St. Cloud, Minnesota; and Medford, Oregon, in the top 20 small and medium cities list. NCAR provides rank scores on all measures for every U.S. county on its interactive heat map.

“Each community in the report has a unique story and cultural landscape – this report is designed to help us understand what makes a city vibrant in the arts and the different elements that come into play to foster that vibrancy,” said Zannie Giraud Voss director of NCAR, and chair and professor of arts management and arts entrepreneurship in SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts and Cox School of Business. “The data helps illustrate how vibrancy varies between cities and what arts vibrancy looks like for different communities around the nation.”

The overall index is composed of three dimensions. Supply is assessed by the total number of arts providers in the community, including the number of arts organizations, independent artists, and arts, culture, and entertainment employees. Demand is gauged by the total nonprofit arts dollars in the community, including program revenue, contributed revenue, total expenses, and total compensation. Lastly, the level of government support is based on state arts dollars and grants and federal arts dollars and grants.

Geographically, the rankings utilize Micro- and Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), which are delineated geographic areas consisting of one or more counties that have high social and economic integration with an urban core as defined by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). By focusing on MSAs, the index captures the network of suburbs that rise up around a city or town rather than considering each separately. Where the OMB breaks down very large MSAs into Metropolitan Divisions, this report does, too.

Among cities with populations of 1 million or more, the five most vibrant arts communities are as follows:

  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
  • Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, TN
  • New York-Jersey City-White Plains, NY-NJ
  • San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA

Portland, Oregon; Austin, Texas; and Kansas City, Missouri joined the top 20 list this year, ranked 17, 18, and 19, respectively. Compared to 2015, there was little movement between the highest-ranking cities in both the larger and smaller markets, and the top three cities remain the same as last year, with some repositioning between them. In the top five rankings among large cities, the biggest mover was Los Angeles, which moved up to fifth place from its position in ninth place last year; San Francisco moved up to fourth place (from fifth); and Boston dropped down two positions to sixth place.

For medium and small cities, with populations under 1 million, the top five cities are all in the West. Jackson, Wyoming, which ranked third in last year’s index, has moved to the top of the list from its former position in third place, causing Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, to drop down one position to second and third respectively:

  • Jackson, WY-ID
  • Glenwood Springs, CO
  • Santa Fe, NM
  • Breckenridge, CO
  • Edwards, CO

Three new cities appear in the top 20 medium and small cities list: Maui, Hawaii; St. Cloud, Minnesota; and Medford, Oregon, ranked at 14, 16, and 20, respectively. The full top 20 lists are available on the NCAR website, including scores on each of the three dimensions (supply, demand, and government support).

Beyond the specific rankings, select key findings in the Arts Vibrancy Index include:

  • Every region of the country is represented on both lists: no region has cornered the market on arts vibrancy. Cities large and small from every region appear in the top 40 cities, although there is high representation from Western and Midwestern communities in the set of medium-small cities.
  • Arts vibrancy takes many shapes and forms. Some cities have impressive financial resources invested in nonprofit arts and cultural institutions, others are filled with many smaller organizations and venues, some are tourist destinations, and still others are artist colonies. Some cities are strong in numerous arts sectors while others are capitals of a particular art form.
  • Vibrancy in very large cities takes two distinct forms: some cities feature a strong concentration of arts vibrancy in the urban core with less happening in the surrounding areas, while others feature an even distribution of vibrancy across their metropolitan areas.
    The majority of arts-vibrant cities have a population either under 300,000 or between 1,000,000 and 3,000,000.

About NCAR
In 2012, the Meadows School of the Arts and Cox School of Business at SMU launched the National Center for Arts Research (NCAR). The Center, the first of its kind in the nation, analyzes the largest database of arts research ever assembled; investigates important issues in arts management and patronage; and makes its findings available to arts leaders, funders, policymakers, researchers and the general public.

Follow SMUResearch.com on twitter at @smuresearch.

SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools. For more information see www.smu.edu.

SMU has an uplink facility located on campus for live TV, radio, or online interviews. To speak with an SMU expert or book an SMU guest in the studio, call SMU News & Communications at 214-768-7650.

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Culture, Society & Family Fossils & Ruins

Text in lost language may reveal god or goddess worshipped by Etruscans at ancient temple

Rare religious artifact found at ancient temple site in Italy is from lost culture fundamental to western traditions

Archaeologists in Italy have discovered what may be a rare sacred text in the Etruscan language that is likely to yield rich details about Etruscan worship of a god or goddess.

The lengthy text is inscribed on a large 6th century BCE sandstone slab that was uncovered from an Etruscan temple.

A new religious artifact is rare. Most Etruscan discoveries typically have been grave and funeral objects.

“This is probably going to be a sacred text, and will be remarkable for telling us about the early belief system of a lost culture that is fundamental to western traditions,” said archaeologist Gregory Warden, co-director and principal investigator of the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project, which made the discovery.

The slab, weighing about 500 pounds and nearly four feet tall by more than two feet wide, has at least 70 legible letters and punctuation marks, said Warden, professor emeritus at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, main sponsor of the project.

Scholars in the field predict the stele (STEE-lee), as such slabs are called, will yield a wealth of new knowledge about the lost culture of the Etruscans.

The Etruscan civilization once ruled Rome and influenced Romans on everything from religion to government to art to architecture.

Considered one of the most religious people of the ancient world, Etruscan life was permeated by religion, and ruling magistrates also exercised religious authority.

The slab was discovered embedded in the foundations of a monumental temple where it had been buried for more than 2,500 years. At one time it would have been displayed as an imposing and monumental symbol of authority, Warden said.

The Mugello Valley dig, specifically the Poggio Colla site, is northeast of Florence, Italy.

The slab would have been connected to the early sacred life of the sanctuary there. The architecture then was characterized by timber-framed oval structures pre-dating a large temple with an imposing stone podium and large stone column bases of the Tuscan Doric type, five of which have been found at the site, Warden said.

“We hope to make inroads into the Etruscan language,” said Warden, president and professor of archaeology at Franklin University Switzerland. “Long inscriptions are rare, especially one this long, so there will be new words that we have never seen before, since it is not a funerary text.”

Conservation and study of the stele, with full photogrammetry and laser scanning to document all aspects of the conservation process and all details of the inscribed surfaces, is underway in the next few months at the conservation laboratories of the Tuscan Archaeological Superintendency in Florence by experts from the architecture department of the University of Florence. The sandstone, likely from a local source, is heavily abraded and chipped, with one side reddened, possibly from undergoing burning in antiquity. Cleaning will allow scholars to read the inscription.

“We know how Etruscan grammar works, what’s a verb, what’s an object, some of the words,” Warden said. “But we hope this will reveal the name of the god or goddess that is worshiped at this site.” The text will be studied and published by a noted expert on the Etruscan language, Rex Wallace, Professor of Classics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

In two decades of digging, Mugello Valley Archaeological Project has unearthed objects about Etruscan worship, beliefs, gifts to divinities, and discoveries related to the daily lives of elites and non-elites, including workshops, kilns, pottery and homes. This wealth of material helps document the ritual activity from the 7th century to the 2nd century BCE, including gold jewelry, coins, the earliest scene of childbirth in western European art, and in the past two seasons, four 6th-century bronze statuettes.

Etruscan scholar Jean MacIntosh Turfa with the University of Pennsylvania Museum, Philadelphia, said the stele discovery will advance knowledge of Etruscan history, literacy and religious practices.

“Inscriptions of more than a few words, on permanent materials, are rare for the Etruscans, who tended to use perishable media like linen cloth books or wax tablets,” Turfa said. “This stone stele is evidence of a permanent religious cult with monumental dedications, at least as early as the Late Archaic Period, from about 525 to 480 BCE. Its re-use in the foundations of a slightly later sanctuary structure points to deep changes in the town and its social structure.”

It would be a rare discovery to identify the Etruscan god or goddess to which the sanctuary was dedicated.

“Apart from the famous seaside shrine at Pyrgi, with its inscribed gold plaques, very few Etruscan sanctuaries can be so conclusively identified,” Turfa said. “A study of the names of the dedicants will yield rich data on a powerful society where the nobility, commoners and even freed slaves could offer public vows and gifts.”

Etruscans were a highly cultured people, but very little of their writing has been preserved, mostly just short funerary inscriptions with names and titles, said archaeologist Ingrid Edlund-Berry, professor emerita, The University of Texas at Austin.

“So any text, especially a longer one, is an exciting addition to our knowledge,” said Edlund-Berry, an expert in Etruscan civilization. “It is very interesting that the stele was found within the walls of the buildings at the site, thus suggesting that it was re-used, and that it represents an early phase at the site.”

The Poggio Colla site is in northern Etruria. Most inscriptions have come from centers further south, Edlund-Berry said.

The stele was officially reported during a scientific exhibit of the Tuscan Archaeological Superintendency starting March 19, “Shadow of the Etruscans,” in Prato, Italy.

Besides SMU, other collaborating institutions at Mugello Valley Archaeological Project include Franklin and Marshall College, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology, the Center for the Study of Ancient Italy at The University of Texas at Austin, The Open University (UK), and Franklin University Switzerland. — Margaret Allen

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Culture, Society & Family Fossils & Ruins Researcher news

New look at Pizarro’s conquest of Inca reveals foot soldiers were awed by empire’s grandeur

Grand symbolism of Inca power through art, architecture, textiles and livestock held little sway over the artillery, guns and cavalry of the Spanish army.

SMU pre-Columbian expert Adam Herring takes a new look at Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro's 1532 attack on the Inca Empire. (Hillsman Jackson, SMU)
SMU pre-Columbian expert Adam Herring takes a new look at Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro’s 1532 attack on the Inca Empire. (Hillsman Jackson, SMU)

Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro’s 1532 attack on the Inca empire during a two-day conflict in Cajamarca, Peru is an infamous episode in history.

But efforts by the pre-contact Inca to display their power and authority to the Spanish through architecture, landscape, geoglyphs, textiles, ceramics, feather work and metalwork failed to stop Pizarro.

“The Inca were overconfident,” says SMU pre-Columbian expert Adam Herring. “They didn’t understand the tactical violence of horses and metal weapons. Destruction always carries the day.”

Twenty-four hours after Pizarro confronted the Inca empire, which covered most of South America’s Andean region, the royal Inca leadership was shattered.

Herring, associate professor of art history in SMU’s Meadows School of Arts, takes a new look at Pizarro’s attack in his book, Art and Vision in the Inca Empire.

The book was one of four finalists for the 2016 international Charles Rufus Morey Book Award, the College Art Association’s highest distinction awarded to a scholarly work.

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Nestled amongst a rocky outcrop atop Mount Huanacaure in the Peruvian Andes is an important Inca religious site.
Nestled amongst a rocky outcrop atop Mount Guanacaure in the Peruvian Andes is an important Inca religious site.(Adam Herring, SMU)

Instead of studying the battle, however, Herring is the first scholar to examine the event as an art historian. As Pizarro’s 180-man army crested the mountains surrounding Cajamarca, they first saw thousands of llamas grazing in the valley.

“The Spanish interpreted the sight as a pastoral scene, something out of an Iberian romance of chivalry such as the Song of Roland or El Cid. In fact those animals were the fist of Inca power,” Herring says. “Llamas served as pack animals for the Incas’ army of 70,000 soldiers. The great herd was also an inducement to surrender, for the animals could be bestowed as gifts—a payoff, essentially—to an enemy who surrendered and swore fealty to the Inca ruler.”

When Pizarro invited Inca ruler Atawallpa to a feast in his honor, Atawallpa spoke to Pizarro behind a transparent screen of woven fabric, theatrical staging in a politically charged context, Herring says. “They were presenting the Inca ruler as a divine apparition, less a living person than a disembodied visual experience.”

The Spanish tradesman, foot soldiers and notaries who comprised Pizarro’s rag tag army struggled to find the words to comprehend the grandeur of the Inca empire.

“Their words are unvarnished and honest, unlike accounts written later by men of letters,” Herring says.

Pedro Pizarro, a teen-age pageboy to his uncle Francisco, wrote, “And they bore so much gold and silver – what a strange thing it was as it glinted in the sunlight.”

The grand symbolism of Inca power through art, architecture, textiles and animals held little sway over the artillery, guns and cavalry of the Spanish army. Pizarro ambushed Atawallpa at their meeting, taking him captive and killing thousands of his retainers and soldiers. Within a year, the Inca dynastic regime had been toppled, reduced from its former status as an empire that stretched the length of the Andes from Ecuador to Patagonia.

“There is still much to learn about the role of Inca visual expression in Inca ritual and politics,” Herring says. “At Cajamarca, Europeans witnessed Inca art in motion and in the political moment.”

Last year alone over 1.5 million tourists traveled to another remote Inca site, Machu Picchu, Peru, abandoned after Pizarro’s conquest. Inca art, architecture and displays of power continue to fascinate visitors.

Besides the Charles Rufus Morey Book Award, Art and Vision in the Inca Empire also received an honorable mention PROSE Award from the American Association of Publishers.

A specialist in the art of the pre-Columbian Americas, Herring studied at Princeton University, the University of California at Berkeley and at Yale University, where his dissertation in art history received the 1999 Frances Blanshard Fellowship Award.

Herring is the author of numerous journal articles and a 2005 book on ancient Maya calligraphy, Art and Writing in the Maya Cities, AD 600-800: A Poetics of Line, published by Cambridge University Press. At SMU Herring teaches courses on Inca, Aztec and Maya art. He has led student groups to study architecture in Italy; Inca sites at Machu Picchu, Peru, and art at SMU-in-Taos, New Mexico.

“My teaching, research and scholarship inform one another,” he says. “I couldn’t do one without the others.” — Nancy George

Follow SMUResearch.com on twitter at @smuresearch.

SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools. For more information see www.smu.edu.

SMU has an uplink facility located on campus for live TV, radio, or online interviews. To speak with an SMU expert or book an SMU guest in the studio, call SMU News & Communications at 214-768-7650.

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Culture, Society & Family Learning & Education Researcher news

National Center for Arts Research white paper counters findings of the Devos Institute Study on Culturally Specific Arts Organizations

NCAR study identifies the key differences between culturally specific organizations and their mainstream peers and calls for a more equitable measurement of performance

NCAR-WhitePaper-leadimage

The National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) at Southern Methodist University today released a white paper that examines the distinguishing characteristics of arts organizations that primarily serve Asian American, African American, and Hispanic/Latino communities.

The study is designed to provide insights, based on measurable data, about the operating contexts and unique challenges that these organizations face. Co-authored with Andrea Louie, Executive Director, Asian American Arts Alliance, and Zenetta Drew, Executive Director, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, the goal of the white paper is to provide a more nuanced understanding of culturally specific organizations and to help establish a more equitable measure of their performance.

Inspired by the DeVos Institute’s 2015 publication “Diversity in the Arts: The Past, Present and Future of African American and Latino Museums, Dance Companies, and Theater Companies,” NCAR’s paper responds to two key aspects of the DeVos Institute’s findings: first, that arts organizations of color are in general smaller and “far less secure” than their mainstream counterparts; and second, that funders might see greater results by providing larger grants to a smaller number of “effective” organizations, rather than continuing to fund a larger number of organizations through smaller grants.

Based on its research, NCAR found that culturally specific arts organizations are not disproportionately smaller than their mainstream peers. Taking into account their sector and age, the data shows that they are generally younger and therefore at a different stage in their evolution than mainstream organizations.

NCAR argues that the funding model proposed by DeVos would be detrimental to the cultural ecology, as it could effectively reduce the overall number of smaller organizations and therefore diminish the level of diversity, dynamism, and innovation in the field. NCAR calls for a deeper understanding of culturally specific organizations before significantly altering or abandoning their funding.

“We recognize that culturally specific organizations have particular characteristics that should be understood for what they are, neither good nor bad nor a sign of ineffectiveness but simply a different starting point,” said Zannie Voss, director at NCAR. “With this study, we want to reframe how we assess the performance of these organizations by identifying the differences in their operating contexts and by establishing a more precise framework of what expected performance should look like, rooted in evidence-based research.”

NCAR’s study examined the operating characteristics of arts organizations that primarily serve African Americans, Asian Americans, or Hispanics/Latinos as compared to their more mainstream counterparts, and examined whether they perform significantly differently on a variety of metrics. An analysis of data from a large sample of organizations across 12 different arts and culture sectors produced several other key findings:

  • Culturally specific organizations are more prevalent in sectors that have lower average budget size (e.g., community-based arts, arts education), and less prevalent in sectors with larger budgets (e.g., museums, opera companies, performing arts centers).
  • Culturally specific organizations have similarly sized budgets and physical facilities as mainstream organizations but spend less on marketing, earn less from subscriptions, and have lower trustee giving; however, they attract a higher level of support from government sources.

These organizations also demonstrate performance characteristics that distinguish them from one another (as well as their mainstream counterparts). More specifically:

  • Asian American organizations generate more attendance using fewer resources but also attract a lower level of support from all sources except for government.
  • African American organizations tend to have fewer programmatic offerings that generate lower annual attendance and program revenue but more contributed revenue, especially from individuals, foundations and corporations.
  • Hispanic/Latino organizations tend to have a higher number of programmatic offerings, full-time employees, and development expenses, which generate higher overall contributed support, especially from corporations and foundations, but lower program revenue and lower individual giving.

In order to create the level playing field it seeks to establish, NCAR’s study controlled for a number of factors:

Inherent differences within the arts and culture sector; e.g., data shows that art museums have higher attendance rates than do dance companies.

Organizational characteristics, especially fundamental characteristics that are difficult to change in the short term but can influence performance attributes of an organization, such as size of the physical facility and organizational age.

The characteristics of the community where the organizations operate; e.g., New York City has a larger population with higher average income and tourist visits than most U.S. cities, but also more competition for arts and culture consumers.

“Diversity in the arts is a multifaceted and complex issue. As an academic institution that seeks to educate future leaders in the arts, we are proud to make this contribution to the broader field discussion on diversity,” said Sam Holland, dean of the Meadows School of the Arts at SMU. “NCAR was established to catalyze new and informed thinking about important issues in the arts with a data-driven approach. It is our hope that the compelling insights set out by this study will help support the sustainability of a dynamic and diverse arts and cultural community around the country.”

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Culture, Society & Family Economics & Statistics

Data-driven assessment ranks U.S. Metropolitan Areas by arts and cultural assets

NCAR, SMU’s National Center for Arts Research, creates index to measure arts vibrancy of U.S. Metropolitan Areas

NCAR, SMU’s National Center for Arts Research, today released its first annual Arts Vibrancy Index.

The index ranks more than 900 communities across the country. Vibrancy is measured as the level of supply, demand and government support for arts and culture on a per capita basis. The report highlights the top 20 large markets and top 20 medium and small markets. NCAR provides rank scores on all measures for every U.S. county on the interactive heat map.

“The numbers are only the start of the story, not the end. Each city in our report is unique in what makes it a vibrant community for the arts,” said Zannie Giraud Voss, director of NCAR and chair and professor of arts management and arts entrepreneurship in SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts and Cox School of Business. “Our intention in developing this report is to stimulate conversation about what makes a city vibrant in the arts and how arts vibrancy varies across cities.”

The overall index is composed of three dimensions.

Supply is assessed by the total number of arts providers in the community, including the number of independent artists, arts, culture and entertainment employees, and arts organizations.

Demand is gauged by the total nonprofit arts dollars in the community, including program revenue, contributed revenue, total expenses and total compensation.

Level of government support is based on state arts dollars and grants and federal arts dollars and grants.

girls, virtual reality, say no, sexual violence, assertiveness training, Rowe, Jouriles, McDonald, SMU
SMU, Meltzer, women, body image
supervolcano, fossil, Italy, James Quick, Sesia Valley
Brian Stump, SMU, earthquakes
Meltzer, contraception, couples, happiness
Blue light, Zoltowski, SMU
Morrison Formation, Jurassic, climate, ancient soil, Myers, paleosols

Geographically, the rankings utilize Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), which are delineated geographic areas consisting of one or more counties that have high social and economic integration with an urban core as defined by the Office of Management and Budget. By focusing on MSAs, the index captures the network of suburbs that rise up around a city or town rather than considering them separately.

Among cities with populations of 1 million or more, the five most vibrant arts communities are as follows:

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Virginia-Maryland-West Virginia
Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tennessee
New York-Jersey City-White Plains, New York-New Jersey
Boston, Massachusetts
San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, California

For medium and small cities, with population under 1 million, the top five cities are all in the West:

Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Jackson, Wyoming-Idaho
Breckenridge, Colorado
Edwards, Colorado

The full top-20 lists are available on the NCAR Arts Vibrancy Index, including scores on each of the three dimensions of supply, demand and government support.

Beyond the specific rankings, select key findings in the Arts Vibrancy Index include:

No region has cornered the market on arts vibrancy. Cities large and small from every region appear in the top 40 cities, although there is high representation from Western communities in the set of Medium-Small cities.

Arts vibrancy takes many shapes and forms. Some cities have impressive financial resources invested in nonprofit arts and cultural institutions, others are filled with many smaller organizations and venues, some are tourist destinations and still others are artist colonies. Some cities are strong in numerous arts sectors while others are capitals of a particular art form.

There are interesting differences across very large Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs). Those that made the list tend either to have a strong concentration of arts vibrancy in an urban core and less going on in surrounding communities, or they are vibrant throughout the greater metropolitan area, and less so in the city center.

The majority of arts vibrant cities have a population either under 300,000 or between 1,000,000 and 3,000,000.

In 2012, Meadows and Cox launched NCAR, the first of its kind in the nation. NCAR analyzes the largest database of arts research ever assembled, investigates important issues in arts management and patronage, and makes its findings available to arts leaders, funders, policymakers, researchers and the general public.

With data from the Cultural Data Project (CDP) and other national and government sources such as the Theatre Communications Group, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Census Bureau and the National Center for Charitable Statistics, NCAR is creating the most complete picture of the health of the arts sector in the U.S.

The project’s indices and dashboard were created in partnership with IBM, TRG Arts and Nonprofit Finance Fund. The Center also partnered with the Boston Consulting Group to develop its mission, vision and long-term strategies.

NCAR is led by Zannie Voss and Glenn Voss, Endowed Professor of Marketing at Cox.

Meadows, one of the foremost arts education institutions in the United States, offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in advertising, art, art history, arts management and arts entrepreneurship, communication studies, creative computation, dance, film and media arts, journalism, music and theatre.

Cox offers a full range of undergraduate and graduate business education programs.

Follow SMUResearch.com on twitter at @smuresearch.

SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools. For more information see www.smu.edu.

SMU has an uplink facility located on campus for live TV, radio, or online interviews. To speak with an SMU expert or book an SMU guest in the studio, call SMU News & Communications at 214-768-7650.

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Culture, Society & Family Researcher news SMU In The News

The New York Times: Study Finds a Gender Gap at the Top Museums

At small and midsize museums, with budgets under $15 million, women have essentially achieved parity

Reporter Hilarie M. Sheets with The New York Times has covered the research of Ann Marie Gan, an SMU student in the MA/MBA in Arts Management in the Cox School of Business and Meadows School of the Arts.

The article, Study Finds a Gender Gap at the Top Museums, published March 7.

Gan authored the study with Zannie Giraud Voss, director of the National Center for Arts Research, NCAR, at Southern Methodist University, and Christine Anagnos, executive director of the Association of Art Museum Directors, AAMD.

The research study was designed to understand the gender gap in art museum directorships and to explore potential factors to help AAMD member institutions advance toward greater gender equality.

Through a combination of quantitative analysis and interviews, the researchers examined the current and historical factors of the gender gap in art museum directorships.

The study, The Gender Gap in Art Museum Directorships, found that women hold fewer than 50 percent of directorships and that the average female director’s salary lags behind that of the average male director — with overall disparities driven by mostly the largest museums.

The Association of Art Museum Directors represents 236 art museum directors in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. It promotes the vital role of art museums throughout North America and advances the profession by cultivating leadership and communicating standards of excellence in museum practice.

The Meadows School of the Arts is one of the foremost U.S. arts education institutions. It offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in advertising, art, art history, arts management and arts entrepreneurship, communication studies, creative computation, dance, film and media arts, journalism, music and theatre. It shares with the Cox School of Business at SMU the dual-degree MA/MBA in arts management. For more information, visit www.smu.edu/meadows.

Read the full story.

EXCERPT:

By Hilarie M. Sheets
The New York Times

Women run just a quarter of the biggest art museums in the United States and Canada, and they earn about a third less than their male counterparts, according to a report released on Friday by the Association of Art Museum Directors, a professional organization.

The group examined salary data on the 217 members it had last year through the prism of gender, for the first time. The report noted strides made by women at small and midsize museums, with budgets under $15 million, often university or contemporary-art institutions. Here, women have basically achieved parity, holding nearly half of the directorships and earning just about the same as men. But the gap is glaring at big institutions, those with budgets over $15 million: Only 24 percent are led by women, and they make 29 percent less than their male peers.

And just five of the 33 most prominent art museums — those with budgets greater than $20 million — have women at the helm.

“There is a difference if a woman is running one of these big museums,” said Elizabeth Easton, director of the Center for Curatorial Leadership, a training program in New York that has helped place nine women in directorships, but none at the country’s most influential museums. “Those directors are the most loud and authoritative voices. It sets the tone.” ….

…. Written in partnership with the National Center for Arts Research, the report, called “The Gender Gap in Museum Directorships,” explores the factors contributing to the gulf at the top and frames the findings within the debate provoked by Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” and Anne-Marie Slaughter’s 2012 article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” in The Atlantic.

Combining large and small institutions, the report found that an average of 42 percent of the association’s museum directors were women. That is certainly a different picture from 25 years ago, when only 14 percent of museums in the association were run by women, and a slight improvement from 38 percent five years ago.

On average, however, women who run art institutions earned 21 percent less than their male counterparts in 2013 — a bigger difference than the 18 percent overall median pay split between the sexes reported by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The report, which incorporated observations from interviews with six executive search recruiters, considered reasons for the gap, including the ratio of men to women on museum boards, which hire directors. While the recruiters agreed that boards were no longer all-male clubs — women now outnumber men, 59 to 30, on the board of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, for instance — gender ratios remain uneven. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the male voting members still outnumber female ones, 23 to 10. At the National Gallery, the board has seven men and two women. ….

Read the full story.

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For more information, www.smuresearch.com.

SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools. For more information see www.smu.edu.

SMU has an uplink facility located on campus for live TV, radio, or online interviews. To speak with an SMU expert or book an SMU guest in the studio, call SMU News & Communications at 214-768-7650.

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Culture, Society & Family Economics & Statistics

Women have made strides for equality in society, but gender gap still exists in art museum directorships

New study examines the current and historical factors of the gender gap in art museum directorships, particularly at large museums

The Association of Art Museum Directors, AAMD, and the National Center for Arts Research, NCAR, at Southern Methodist University have released findings from a research study designed to understand the gender gap in art museum directorships and to explore potential factors to help AAMD member institutions advance toward greater gender equality.

Through a combination of quantitative analysis and interviews, NCAR and AAMD researchers — led by Zannie Giraud Voss, director of SMU NCAR, and Christine Anagnos, executive director of AAMD — examined the current and historical factors of the gender gap in art museum directorships.

The study, The Gender Gap in Art Museum Directorships, found that women hold fewer than 50 percent of directorships and that the average female director’s salary lags behind that of the average male director — with overall disparities driven by mostly the largest museums. Lead author was Ann Marie Gan, a student in the MA/MBA in Arts Management in SMU’s Cox School of Business and Meadows School of the Arts.

In 2013, AAMD conducted a survey of its members, with 211 responding, or 97 percent. The data collected included each institution’s operating budget, endowment, the director’s or top official’s salary and the director’s gender. Additional research was collected on each director’s tenure in his or her current position and on the position held prior to his or her current directorship. Previous position data was found for 193 of the 211 directors.

Study looked at current state of women in art museum directorships and factors driving any gender gap
The study sought to answer two main questions: What is the current state of women in art museum directorships? What are some factors that may drive the gender gap? The NCAR and AAMD study had several key findings:

— Out of the 211 directors included in the AAMD survey, 90 directors were female; women held 42.6 percent of art museum directorships.​

— On average, female directors earned $.79 cents for $1 that male directors earned. In 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median pay of women nationwide is 82 percent of that of men.

— Segmented by operating budget, these gender disparities are concentrated in museums with a budget of over $15 million roughly the top quarter of museums. In this segment of museums, there are fewer female directors than male directors, and female directors earn less on average than their male counterparts — $.71 cents for $1 a male earns.

— At museums with budgets under $15 million, the number of female directors is nearly equal to the number of male directors, and, on average, the women earn slightly more — $1.02 for every $1 a male director earns.

Directors promoted internally suffer salary disadantage compared to peers hired from the outside
Other factors besides gender that may have influenced the salary and representation differentials noted above were examined through qualitative analysis and interviews with executive search consultants who work with art museums. The study found that a position a director held before entering his or her current position had an effect on average salary: if the person attained the position through internal promotion, he or she was at a salary disadvantage compared to peers hired from other institutions.

Directors who previously held a non-director job were also at a salary disadvantage when compared to their peers who had previously held the top position at another institution. These observations are true for both men and women, but the number of women who have become directors through internal promotion is greater, and these factors may have contributed in part to salary disparities.

A visual summary of the study can be found online at the National Center for Arts Research. In addition to Voss and Anagnos, co-authors of the study are Anne Marie Gan, SMU MA/MBA Class of 2015, and Alison D. Wade, Chief Administrator, Association of Art Museum Directors.

The Association of Art Museum Directors represents 236 art museum directors in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. It promotes the vital role of art museums throughout North America and advances the profession by cultivating leadership and communicating standards of excellence in museum practice.

The Meadows School of the Arts is one of the foremost U.S. arts education institutions. It offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in advertising, art, art history, arts management and arts entrepreneurship, communication studies, creative computation, dance, film and media arts, journalism, music and theatre. It shares with the Cox School of Business at SMU the dual-degree MA/MBA in arts management. For more information, visit www.smu.edu/meadows.

SMU’s Cox School of Business offers a full range of undergraduate and graduate business education programs. — SMU Meadows

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SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools. For more information see www.smu.edu.

SMU has an uplink facility located on campus for live TV, radio, or online interviews. To speak with an SMU expert or book an SMU guest in the studio, call SMU News & Communications at 214-768-7650.

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Le Huffington Post: Le sommeil rendrait les musiciens plus efficaces — étude

Sarah E. Allen, Meadows, music, sleep, SMU

Journalist Matthieu Carlier with Le Huffington Post covered the research of SMU’s Sarah E. Allen, an assistant professor of music education in the Meadows School of the Arts.

Allen’s study examined how the brain learns and retains motor skills, and the findings provide insight into musical skill.

The study found that performance of a musical task improved among pianists whose practice of a new melody was followed by a night of sleep.

Allen’s research is among the first to look at whether sleep enhances the learning process for musicians practicing a new piano melody.

Carlier’s article, “Le sommeil rendrait les musiciens plus efficaces, selon une étude américaine,” was published April 16, 2013.

Read the full story.

EXCERPT:

Le dicton selon lequel la nuit porte conseil serait donc exact. Au moins pour les musiciens. Dans une étude portant sur 60 musiciens diplômés, publiée dans la revue Psychology of Music, des chercheurs de la Southern Methodist University ont montré comment dormir les aidait à retenir une mélodie entendue avant d’aller se coucher.

Divisés en plusieurs groupes assignés à des tâches différentes, les musiciens qui avaient appris une mélodie au piano juste avant de dormir étaient les mieux à même de la reproduire le plus fidèlement au réveil. “Le sommeil semble jouer un rôle très important dans la mémorisation,” indique Sarah Allen, professeure en éducation de la musique, “Il renforce les fonctions mémorielles du cerveau.” Mais pas dans tous les cas.

TRANSLATION:
The saying that the night brings counsel is true. At least for musicians. In a study of 60 music students, published in the journal Psychology of Music, researchers at Southern Methodist University have shown how sleep helped to retain a melody played before bedtime.

Divided into several different tasks assigned to groups, musicians who learned a piano melody just before sleep were better able to reproduce it faithfully in the morning. “Sleep appears to play a very important role in memory,” said Sarah Allen, professor of music education. “It strengthens the memory functions of the brain.” But not in all cases.

Read the full story.

Besides outlets in Canada, Allen’s research has been covered on news blogs around the world:

India — Night’s sleep can enhance musical skills: Study

India — Musicians who learn a new melody demonstrate enhanced skills after a night’s sleep, according to a new study

Iran — Sleep helps musicians play new learned melodies

Ireland — Night’s sleep can enhance musical skills: Study

Italy — Psicologia: cervello rafforza apprendimento durante il sonno

Romania — Somnul îi face pe muzicieni mai eficienţi STUDIU

Spain’s LaFlecha — El cerebro danza con la música y aprende a interpretarla en sueños

EXCERPT:

En el marco de otra investigación reciente sobre música y cerebro, realizada en la Southern Methodist University (SMU) de Dallas, Estados Unidos, un equipo de científicos analizó cómo el cerebro aprende y retiene habilidades motoras para la interpretación musical.

El estudio demostró que pianistas que habían ensayado una nueva melodía y después durmieron durante toda la noche mejoraron su proceso de aprendizaje musical de la pieza, tras el descanso.

Sin embargo, esto no ocurrió cuando los pianistas ensayaron dos melodías similares, una detrás de otra, y luego se durmieron. En este caso, cualquier aumento en la velocidad e interpretación de las piezas alcanzado el día anterior desapareció, explican los investigadores.

TRANSLATION:
In the context of other recent research on music and the brain, held at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, United States, a team of scientists analyzed how the brain learns and retains motor skills in musical interpretation.

The study showed that pianists who had tested a new tune and then slept all night improved their musical learning of the piece, after the break.

However, this did not occur when they tested pianists playing two melodies, one after another, who then slept. In this case, any improvement in the speed and performance of the pieces achieved the previous day disappeared, the researchers explained.

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SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools. For more information see www.smu.edu.

SMU has an uplink facility located on campus for live TV, radio, or online interviews. To speak with an SMU expert or book an SMU guest in the studio, call SMU News & Communications at 214-768-7650.

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Musicians who learn a new melody demonstrate enhanced skill after a night’s sleep

Study also finds that gains in speed and accuracy declined after sleep among musicians who practiced the day before on two similar melodies one after another

A new study that examined how the brain learns and retains motor skills provides insight into musical skill.

Performance of a musical task improved among pianists whose practice of a new melody was followed by a night of sleep, says researcher Sarah E. Allen, Southern Methodist University, Dallas.

The study is among the first to look at whether sleep enhances the learning process for musicians practicing a new piano melody.

SMU Lyle School of Engineering
SMU, Project Support, Department of Psychology

The study found, however, that when two similar melodies were practiced one after the other, followed by sleep, any gains in speed and accuracy achieved during practice diminished overnight, said Allen, an assistant professor of music education in SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts.

“The goal is to understand how the brain decides what to keep, what to discard, what to enhance, because our brains are receiving such a rich data stream and we don’t have room for everything,” Allen said. “I was fascinated to study this because as musicians we practice melodies in juxtaposition with one another all the time.”

Surprisingly, in a third result the study found that when two similar musical pieces were practiced one after the other, followed by practice of the first melody again, a night’s sleep enhanced pianists’ skills on the first melody, she said.

“The really unexpected result that I found was that for those subjects who learned the two melodies, if before they left practice they played the first melody again, it seemed to reactivate that memory so that they did improve overnight. Replaying it seemed to counteract the interference of learning a second melody.”

The study adds to a body of research in recent decades that has found the brain keeps processing the learning of a new motor skill even after active training has stopped. That’s also the case during sleep.

The findings may in the future guide the teaching of music, Allen said.

“In any task we want to maximize our time and our effort. This research can ultimately help us practice in an advantageous way and teach in an advantageous way,” Allen said. “There could be pedagogical benefits for the order in which you practice things, but it’s really too early to say. We want to research this further.”

The study, “Memory stabilization and enhancementfollowing music practice,” will be published in the journal Psychology of Music. The journal has made the article available online at http://bit.ly/UOUrTD.

New study builds on earlier brain research in rats and humans
Researchers in the field of procedural memory consolidation have systematically examined the process in both rats and humans.

Studies have found that after practice of a motor skill, such as running a maze or completing a handwriting task, the areas of the brain activated during practice continue to be active for about four to six hours afterward. Activation occurs whether a subject is, for example, eating, resting, shopping or watching TV, Allen said.

Also, researchers have found that the area of the brain activated during practice of the skill is activated again during sleep, she said, essentially recalling the skill and enhancing and reinforcing it. For motor skills such as finger-tapping a sequence, research found that performance tends to be 10 percent to 13 percent more efficient after sleep, with fewer errors.

“There are two phases of memory consolidation. We refer to the four to six hours after training as stabilization. We refer to the phase during sleep as enhancement,” Allen said. “We know that sleep seems to play a very important role. It makes memories a more permanent, less fragile part of the brain.”

Allen’s finding with musicians that practicing a second melody interfered with retaining the first melody is consistent with a growing number of similar research studies that have found learning a second motor skill task interferes with enhancement of the first task.

Impact of sleep on learning for musicians
For Allen’s study, 60 undergraduate and graduate music majors participated in the research.

Divided into four groups, each musician practiced either one or both melodies during evening sessions, then returned the next day after sleep to be tested on their performance of the target melody.

The subjects learned the melodies on a Roland digital piano, practicing with their left hand during 12 30-second practice blocks separated by 30-second rest intervals. Software written for the experiment made it possible to digitally recorde musical instrument data from the performances. The number of correct key presses per 30-second block reflected speed and accuracy.

Musicians who learned a single melody showed performance gains on the test the next day.

Those who learned a second melody immediately after learning the target melody didn’t get any overnight enhancement in the first melody.

Those who learned two melodies, but practiced the first one again before going home to sleep, showed overnight enhancement when tested on the first melody.

“This was the most surprising finding, and perhaps the most important,” Allen reported in the Psychology of Music. “The brief test of melody A following the learning of melody B at the end of the evening training session seems to have reactivated the memory of melody A in a way that inhibited the interfering effects of learning melody B that were observed in the AB-sleep-A group.” — Margaret Allen

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SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools. For more information see www.smu.edu.

SMU has an uplink facility located on campus for live TV, radio, or online interviews. To speak with an SMU expert or book an SMU guest in the studio, call SMU News & Communications at 214-768-7650.

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USA Today: Blind archaeologist uncovers ancient childbirth inscription

Journalist Dan Vergano has covered a new rare find at the archaeological excavation at Poggio Colla, the site of a 2,700-year-old Etruscan settlement in Italy’s Mugello Valley. Excavators turned up two images of a woman giving birth to a child. The article, “Blind archaeologist uncovers ancient childbirth inscription,” published Oct. 24.

The excavation is a project of Southern Methodist University, Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Penn., and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, in collaboration with The Open University in Milton Keynes, England.

Greg Warden, professor and associate dean for academic affairs at the Meadows School of the Arts at SMU and a director of the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project, has called the birth scene “extraordinary,” saying it might have a bearing on the kind of worship that went on at the hilltop sanctuary of Poggio Colla.

Read the full story.

EXCERPT:

By Dan Vergano
USA Today

A legally blind archaeology student uncovered one of the oldest depictions of childbirth yet found, inscribed on a pottery sherd from an Etruscan temple site, perhaps 2,700 years old.

“I am visually impaired, almost totally blind, so I needed to find an archaeology role where I could work on new excavation strategies,” says William Nutt of the University of Texas at Arlington. He found one at the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project field school run by Southern Methodist University at the site of Poggio Colla, in Italy.

Read the full story.

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Major NEH grant allows teachers from community colleges, universities to examine Etruscan culture

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded the Community College Humanities Association a grant of $201,415, which will allow the association to sponsor the 2012 NEH Summer Institute “The Legacy of Ancient Italy: The Etruscan and Early Roman City.”

P. Gregory Warden, University Distinguished Professor of Art History and associate dean for academic affairs in SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, is the major professor and co-director of the Institute, which will be held June 5-25, 2012, in Italy.

The NEH grant makes it possible for 24 college and university teachers to participate in the three-week project in Italy exploring the legacy of Etruscan and early Roman culture. The goals of the institute are to help participants examine the current state of research in the study of these ancient cultures and develop strategies for taking that knowledge to contemporary classrooms.

Grant provides community college teachers with rare research opportunity
According to Warden, the grant also facilitates the dissemination of opportunities in the humanities to teachers in community colleges.

“People who teach in community colleges work so hard and get very little in return. And because they work so hard they get few research opportunities. This is a chance for them to engage in high-level research in a part of the world where they can get a lot out of it,” said Warden. He is co-director of the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project, an SMU-sponsored archaeological excavation at Poggio Colla, the site of an Etruscan settlement in Italy’s picturesque Mugello Valley.

The settlement on Poggio Colla, about 20 miles northeast of Florence, offers glimpses of Etruscan civilization, which flourished for hundreds of years during the first millennium B.C., before being assimilated by the Romans.

Summer Institute participants, whose selection in a nationally competitive process follows guidelines set by the NEH, will analyze how art, architecture and material culture can illuminate the social terrain of early Italy. Their research will be based on four major Institute themes: archaeology and urban identity in early Italy; Etruscan and Roman urbanization; economy, trade and cultural formation in the early Mediterranean; and the consequences of assimilation, appropriation and conquest of the Etruscans by the Romans.

Three-week program opens window to Etruscan dig, area’s culture
The choice of housing locations is designed to complement research and study. Participants will stay at locations in Florence; Rome; and Orvieto, a famous hill town in Italy known for the Crocifisso del Tufo Necropolis, an Etruscan archaeological site featuring burial chambers arranged along street-like grids.

Participants will also have access to local museums and archives, and excavated Etruscan sites, many of which are generally not open to the public. The three-week program will begin with an informal walking tour of Orvieto with Warden, and include seminars, visits to archaeological sites and the expertise of visiting scholars involved in cutting-edge research in the study of Etruscan civilization and ancient Italy.

Warden will be assisted by Institute co-director Carole Lester, professor of history and humanities at Richland College of the Dallas County Community College District; Institute associate Marsha Anderson, adjunct professor of arts and humanities at DCCCD; and Institute project manager David Berry, executive director of the Community College Humanities Association. — Victoria WInkelman

SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools. For more information see www.smu.edu.

SMU has an uplink facility located on campus for live TV, radio, or online interviews. To speak with an SMU expert or book an SMU guest in the studio, call SMU News & Communications at 214-768-7650.

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Ancient Etruscan childbirth image unearthed at SMU’s Poggio Colla is likely a first for western art

Image is first of its kind ever found in an Etruscan excavation

An archaeological excavation at Poggio Colla, the site of a 2,700-year-old Etruscan settlement in Italy’s Mugello Valley, has turned up a surprising and unique find: two images of a woman giving birth to a child.

Researchers from the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project, which oversees the Poggio Colla excavation site some 20 miles northeast of Florence, discovered the images on a small fragment from a ceramic vessel that is more than 2,600 years old.

The images show the head and shoulders of a baby emerging from a mother represented with her knees raised and her face shown in profile, one arm raised, and a long ponytail running down her back.

The excavation is a project of Southern Methodist University, Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Penn., and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, in collaboration with The Open University in Milton Keynes, England.

The identification of the scene was made by Phil Perkins, an authority on Etruscan bucchero and professor of archaeology at The Open University.

“We were astounded to see this intimate scene; it must be the earliest representation of childbirth in Western art,” said Perkins. “Etruscan women are usually represented feasting or participating in rituals, or they are goddesses. Now we have to solve the mystery of who she is and who her child is.”

The Etruscans were the first settlers of Italy, long before the Roman Empire. They built the first cities, were a conduit for the introduction of Greek culture to the Romans, and were known for their art, agriculture, fine metalworking and commerce. They occupied Italy for the first millennium B.C., but were conquered by the Romans and eventually became absorbed into their empire.

Image on elite pottery has implications for Poggio Colla sanctuary worship
“The birth scene is extraordinary, but what is also fascinating is what this image might mean on elite pottery at a sanctuary,” said Greg Warden, professor and associate dean for academic affairs at the Meadows School of the Arts at SMU and a director of the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project.

“Might it have some connection to the cult,” Warden said, “to the kind of worship that went on at the hilltop sanctuary of Poggio Colla?”

The fragment was excavated by William Nutt, who is a graduate student in anthropology at the University of Texas at Arlington and who is legally blind. Nutt was participating in the Poggio Colla Field School, which has operated for six weeks every summer since 1995.

Under the supervision of faculty from U.S. institutions and graduate students in classical archaeology and anthropology, the field school has trained approximately 20 students each year, from more than 70 American and European universities, in the theory and practice of archaeological research. Through excavation and scholarship, these students have played an integral role in understanding the Etruscan occupation of the Mugello Valley.

“I was very grateful to be accepted to the summer program at Poggio Colla — it was my first archaeological dig,” said Nutt, who is attending UTA under a National Science Foundation fellowship.

“I found the artifact at the beginning of my second week there. It was quite dirty, and we weren’t sure what it was until it was cleaned at the onsite lab and identified by Perkins,” Nutt said. “It was thrilling to find out that it was so significant. To make a discovery like that, which provides important new information about a culture we know so little about, is exactly what makes archaeology and anthropology so appealing.”

First image of its type from Etruscan sites
The ceramic fragment is less than 1-3/4 x 1-1/4 inches (4 x 3 cm), from a vessel made of bucchero. Bucchero is a fine, black ceramic material, embellished with stamped and incised decorations, used to make eating and drinking vessels for Etruscan elites.

Typically, stamped designs range from abstract geometric motifs to exotic and mythical animals. There are no known Greek or Roman representations of the moment of birth shown as clearly as the Poggio Colla example until more than 500 years later. The fragment dates to about 600 B.C.E. (Before the Common Era).

Because the site at Poggio Colla has produced numerous votive deposits, scholars are certain that for some part of its history it was a sacred spot to a divinity or divinities.

The abundance of weaving tools and a stunning deposit of gold jewelry discovered earlier have already suggested to some scholars that the patron divinity may have been female; the discovery of the childbirth scene, because of its uniqueness, adds another piece of evidence to the theory.

“This is a most exciting discovery,” said Larissa Bonfante, professor emerita of classics at New York University and a world-renowned expert on the ancient Etruscans. “It shows an image of a type so far unknown in Etruscan context and gives us plenty to think about as we try to understand its religious significance.”

A paper about the find will be presented at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America in Philadelphia in January. The paper, titled “Defining Northern Etruria: Evidence from Poggio Colla (Vicchio di Mugello),” will be presented by Ann Steiner, provost, dean of the faculty and Shirley Watkins Steinman Professor of Classics at Franklin and Marshall College.

Poggio Colla: Highly significant as it spans Etruscan history
Poggio Colla is a highly significant and rare site. One reason is that it spans most of Etruscan history. Archaeological evidence suggests that the site was occupied from around 700 B.C.E. until 187 B.C.E., when it was destroyed by the Romans. Another reason is that it was not buried under later construction. The Etruscans picked beautiful, easily defended hilltops for their settlements. As a result, generation after generation built new cities on top of their sites. That means many have 2000 years of other civilizations on top of Etruscan settlements and cemeteries. Poggio Colla, however, remained in its original condition. Third, Poggio Colla represents an entire settlement, including tombs, a temple, a pottery factory and an artisan community. Excavations of workshops and living quarters are yielding new details about Etruscan life to scholars.

The site centers on the acropolis, a roughly rectangular plateau of one and a half acres at the summit of Poggio Colla. Excavations have found strong evidence that the acropolis was home to a sanctuary and have identified a temple building and an altar at the center of a large courtyard. Numerous offerings have been found buried around the altar, gifts left behind as part of a sacred ritual to a still unidentified deity. These votive donations range from a massive deposit of nearly 500 varied bronze objects, to a spectacular gift of women’s gold jewelry and semi-precious stones. Another votive deposit contains a collection of ritual objects that were laid to rest in a room at the northwest corner of the sanctuary courtyard, possibly by a priest.

Unique religious context allowed first reconstruction of actual rituals
Excavators discovered a large circular pit, at the center of which was placed a sandstone cylinder, possibly the top of a votive column. Carefully situated near the cylinder were two sandstone statue bases, the larger of which includes the inscribed name of the aristocratic donor. Buried alongside these objects were a strand of gold wire, a purposely broken bronze implement, and two bronze bowls that had been used to pour ritual libations, as well as the bones of a piglet, presumably sacrificed as part of a purification ritual. This unique religious context has allowed researchers to reconstruct, for the first time, the actual rituals and actions of the priest/magistrate who presided over the ceremonies.

Although the Etruscan site now called Poggio Colla has been known since the 19th century, it was first excavated from 1968 to 1972 by Francesco Nicosia, the former Superintendent of Archaeology in Tuscany. With Nicosia’s permission and encouragement, SMU professor Greg Warden, a Mugello Valley native, reopened the site in 1995, established the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project and launched the summer Poggio Colla Field School. Today the project continues to proceed with the permission and supervision of the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici per la Toscana and Luca Fedeli, Inspector.

Directors of the project include Warden; Steiner; Michael L. Thomas, senior research associate at the University of Texas at Austin; and Gretchen Meyers, assistant professor of classics at Franklin & Marshall College. They oversee a team of archaeologists, scientists, architects and conservators who are conducting a systematic and multi-disciplined study of Poggio Colla, including stratigraphic excavation, scientific analysis, geophysical mapping and land surveys. — Victoria Winkelman

SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools. For more information see www.smu.edu.

SMU has an uplink facility located on campus for live TV, radio, or online interviews. To speak with an SMU expert or book an SMU guest in the studio, call SMU News & Communications at 214-768-7650.

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Etruscan dig’s common objects are unprecedented finds

SMU’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 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.

05_warden.JPG
P. Gregory Warden at Poggio Collo

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.

The exhibit includes almost 100 objects from its sanctuary and from a habitation and center of ceramic production discovered in a field below its acropolis.

The excavation site spans more than 50 acres. It is the most extensive Etruscan settlement ever discovered and revealed a wealth of details about ordinary life of Etruscans, the ancestors of Rome.

Poggio Colla Field School trains students on an Etruscan site about 22 miles northeast of Florence in the scenic Mugello Valley.

The settlement on Poggio Colla spanned most of Etruscan history, from the seventh century until its destruction by the Romans at the beginning of the second century.

08_pc34and35_wk1.jpg
Students open new trenches the first week of 2008 field season.

The first 11 seasons of excavation have revealed at least three major construction phases, including an extraordinarily rich Orientalizing-Archaic phase that includes the remains of a monumental structure on the acropolis, and two later phases when the site was turned into a fortified stronghold.

Discoveries include 2,000-year-old pendant necklaces, gold hair ornaments, rings and semi-precious stones, and silver coins. The discoveries bring to life a largely forgotten people who, among other things, built the first cities in Italy and introduced Greek culture to the Romans.

Warden, co-director of the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project, says the gold discovery was significant because the riches were not buried in tombs.

“The discovery of these gold objects in this ordinary setting is unprecedented in Etruscan archaeology,” he says.

student-with-gold.jpg
Student/staff member Rachel Julis
uncovering gold.

Etruscan civilization thrived for hundreds of years during the first millennium B.C., before assimilation by the Romans. Little is known of them because researchers have found only scattered ruins.

The gold found at the top of a hill overlooking the Poggio Colla settlement probably was used for religious ceremonies. Like many ancient cultures, the Etruscans were obsessed with symbols and rituals, and evidence says they used such rites and totems to maintain their rigid caste structure, which existed of a tiny elite, a huge slave population and a small serf class. The items found at Poggio Colla, meticulously placed and capped with temple stones, most likely were chosen to persuade — or appease — the gods.

Both exhibitions will run from January 25 to May 17. An opening reception for SMU faculty and staff is scheduled February 5 from 4:30 p.m.-6 p.m.

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.

lres-pendants.jpg
Gold pendants

Featured in “From the Temple and the Tomb” are an entire temple pediment — the terracotta decoration for the front of an Etruscan temple.

It will also include 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.

Related links:
WSJ: Etruscan treasures from Tuscany
USAToday: Ancient Etruscan treasures go on display in Dallas
Bryn Mawr Classical Review: Review of the exhibit
P. Gregory Warden
Meadows: “From the Temple and the Tomb”
Meadows: “New Light on the Etruscans”
Poggio Colla Field School
Student research projects
2008 field school student diaries
2008 field school directors’ diaries
Mugello Valley Region

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Culture, Society & Family Fossils & Ruins Student researchers

Digging the Etruscans: Students unearth treasures in Italy

Senior art history major Jayme Clemente was working in trench No. 35 in July at an archaeological dig 20 miles northeast of Florence, Italy, when something caught her eye.

“I saw something green in the dirt,” she recalls. Green is the color of oxidized bronze.

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Oxidized-green bronze Etruscan coin.

“When you’ve been staring at this light brown mixture of dirt and you see something that is not in the same color palette — it was just an exhilarating feeling to know that there was something in the ground.”

Her trench supervisor raced over and confirmed the first coin discovery of SMU’s 2008 Poggio Colla Field School season in the Mugello Valley. Clemente then worked as slowly as she could to extract the item from the dirt because bronze coins are very fragile after being buried for 2,000 years.

“Your first reaction is to get it out as fast as you can, but you have to take your time and be very patient” to deliver it to the dig conservator in one piece, Clemente says. She is fascinated by the coin’s ability to reveal so many details about the culture in which it was used. Through her research she learned this particular coin was struck far to the south, somewhere between Rome and Naples, between 275 and 250 BCE.

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Jayme Clemente digs at Poggio Colla.

As the site’s field manual says: “It’s not what you find, it’s what you find out.”

Clemente learned her lessons well, says P. Gregory Warden, University Distinguished Professor of Art History. He also serves as the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project’s (MVAP) principal investigator and co-director of its Poggio Colla Field School, an internationally recognized research training center in which SMU has participated since 1995.

Clemente was one of a dozen SMU students who were joined at the field school last summer by students from Dartmouth, Princeton and other universities.

The Poggio Colla site spans most of Etruscan history, from 700 BCE to the town’s destruction by the Romans around 178 BCE, which makes the site very rare. It also is distinctive because of what is not there. The Etruscans picked beautiful, easily defended hilltops for their settlements. As a result, generation after generation built new cities on top of their sites. That means many have 2,000 years of other civilizations on top of Etruscan artifacts, Warden says. Not so Poggio Colla, which is all Etruscan.

The oxidized-green bronze Etruscan coin discovered by Clemente features the head of Athena on one side, a rooster on the reverse.

No one knows why the Etruscans disappeared. Most of what archaeologists have learned about the culture in the past 40 years comes from funerary remains that represent the death rituals of the wealthy. Poggio Colla is different, Warden says. It represents an entire settlement, including tombs, a temple, a pottery factory and an artisan community. Excavations of workshops and living quarters are yielding details about Etruscan life to scholars from SMU and its partners, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Recent finds included a large stone column base that probably belonged to the temple and a ritual pit within the sanctuary where the Etruscans placed a series of sacred objects such as gold thread, two statue bases and two bronze bowls. One of the bowls rests atop the bones of a suckling pig that was sacrificed as part of a purification ritual.

The temple is revealing new information about the Etruscans, who had a theocratic social structure and were considered “the most religious peoples of the ancient Mediterranean,” Warden says. “We can show where the priest was standing and how the objects were placed in this sacred pit with attention to the cardinal points of the compass, reflecting Etruscan religious beliefs and their idea of the sacredness of space.”

The findings are so striking that the British Museum invited Warden to deliver a lecture there in December 2007 on “Ritual and Destruction at the Etruscan Site of Poggio Colla.”

The Italian government long had planned to create a regional archaeological museum in the area. The many discoveries at Poggio Colla moved that plan along, and Warden was a special guest at the museum’s opening in December.

All the artifacts found at Poggio Colla are the property of the Italian government and remain in that country. Because of connections created through the MVAP, more than 350 Etruscan artifacts from Italian museums and 100 artifacts from the field school site will be on loan to the Meadows Museum starting in January for the largest and most comprehensive Etruscan exhibits ever staged in the United States. Warden also will teach a course on “Etruscan Art and Archaeology” for the SMU Master of Liberal Studies program in the spring.

The coin that Clemente found is expected to be part of the exhibit.

“I never knew that it would be put into a museum,” she says, “but I feel pride in knowing that I was a part of the process.” — Deborah Wormser

Related links:
Research blog: Archaeological dig marked by landmark Etruscan exhibit
WSJ: Etruscan treasures from Tuscany
USAToday: Ancient Etruscan treasures go on display in Dallas
Bryn Mawr Classical Review: Review of the exhibit
P. Gregory Warden
Meadows: “From the Temple and the Tomb”
Meadows: “New Light on the Etruscans”
Poggio Colla Field School
Student research projects
2008 field school student diaries
2008 field school directors’ diaries
Mugello Valley Region