Saturday, January 31, 2009

Etruscan Treasures from Tuscany new exhibit at SMU museum in Dallas

Wonderful Etruscan grave goods loaned from the Florence Archaeological Museum in Italy are on display now at the Meadows Museum of Southern Methodist University in Dallas. The exhibit runs through May 17. Once again, because of a conflicting schedule, I won't be able to take the opportunity to view these exceptional objects!! Very frustrating!

[Image - Ritual Cart, second quarter of 7th c. B.C., Bronze. From Vetulonia, "Circolo dei Lebeti." Florence, National Archaeological Museum]

If any of you can make it to Dallas to see these treasures, be sure to stop by the Dallas Museum of Art as well as they have a very diverse Greco-Roman gallery including a large collection of gold Etruscan jewelry like these 5th-3rd century BCE gold grappolo earrings.

The Florence Archaeological Museum holds what is arguably the finest collection of Etruscan art in the world, and some of the choicest objects from its collection will come to the Meadows. These extraordinary objects illustrate every aspect of Etruscan life and afterlife over almost a thousand years. The Etruscans were ruled by a theocratic elite that controlled every aspect of Etruscan life; priest/magistrates were believed to be skilled at interpreting the will of the gods. The exhibition will include ritual objects, such as votive bronzes offered to the gods in sanctuaries, or objects used for interpreting the will of the gods, such as the still-mysterious Magliano lead disc. The exhibition also will include an entire temple pediment—the terracotta decoration for the front of an Etruscan temple—showing that the Etruscans were masters at working terracotta as well as bronze (the Etruscan skill at creating decorative objects in bronze was much admired by the Greeks, and adapted by the Romans). Additionally, a multitude of objects will be shown from Etruscan tombs: sarcophagi and ash urns, guardian animals and demons, as well as the splendid gold, silver, bronze, ivory, and ceramic objects that were deposited in the tombs of the wealthy. Especially impressive is the gold jewelry, so technically advanced that it is difficult to reproduce today.
Fifteen years of excavation at the Etruscan site of
Poggio Colla will also be displayed in an accompanying exhibit, New Light on the Etruscans. Overseen by Dr. P. Gregory Warden, a classical archaeologist and University Distinguished Professor of Art History at SMU, and Dr. Michael L. Thomas, archaeologist and Senior Research Associate at The University of Texas at Austin, the site, first excavated from 1968 to 1972 by Dr. Francesco Nicosia, the former Superintendent of Archaeology in Tuscany, was reopened in 1995.

"Archaeological evidence suggests that Poggio Colla was occupied from as early as 650 B.C.E. until at least 187 B.C.E. 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 a sanctuary and have identified a building and an altar associated with the structure. The building’s form evolved from a modest hut-like structure in the seventh century B.C.E. to a monumental complex with stone foundations and tile roofs by the time of its destruction in the second century B.C.E. Since 1995, excavations have unearthed five stone column bases and other parts of a monumental building that are a testament to the scale and importance of this rural sanctuary at the frontier of the Etruscan world...

...Excavators discovered a large circular pit, at the center of which was placed a sandstone cylinder, possibly the top of a votive column or altar. Carefully situated near the cylinder were two sandstone statue bases, the larger of which is inscribed with the 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 sacrificial animal. This unique religious context allows us to reconstruct the actual rituals and actions of the priest/magistrate who presided over the ceremonies....

...a habitation and center of ceramic production [was] discovered in a field below the acropolis of Poggio Colla. The structure includes a room with a circular hearth surrounded by cooking vessels. A terraced outdoor work space preserved several carbonized post holes, perhaps the remnants of wooden drying racks surrounding a large fire pit. At the southern end of this terrace, set into a pit up against a terrace wall, excavation uncovered a deposit of unusual stands of a type usually used for banqueting. At the opposite side of the building were the remnants of three kilns. These teardrop-shaped kilns were used to produce simple fine-ware bowls of at least three different sizes."
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