Etruscan Lecture

Theresa Huntsman of Washington University in St. Louis will be presenting the UMass Amherst Classics Department’s annual Etruscan lecture on Oct. 10 at 5.00 p.m. The lecture is entitled ‘Sometimes you can take it with you: Etruscan banquets and burials.’ The lecture is open to the public and will be held in Herter Hall 301 on the campus of the University. Questions or requests for more information should be addressed to Lisa Marie Smith (

Etruscan Roundtable III

The UMass Amherst Classics Department and its Center for Etruscan Studies are delighted to announce that Etruscan Roundtable III is being held on October 10, 2013 at noon in Herter Hall 301. The topic of this year’s roundtable is “Aspects of Social Identity”. The speakers are: Theresa Huntsman, Washington University in St. Louis; Anthony Tuck, University of Massachusetts Amherst; and Rex Wallace, University of Massachusetts Amherst.

For more information please contact Rex Wallace (

Etruscan Roundtable II

The second meeting of UMass Amherst’s Etruscan Roundtable series took place on April 10 in Herter Hall on the UMass Amherst campus. Roundtable II, which was entitled “Topics in Etruscan Identity,” was sponsored by the Department of Classics and the Department’s Center for Etruscan Studies. The presenters were: Alexandra Carpino, University of Northern Arizona, “Mythology and Identity”; Anthony Tuck, UMass Amherst, “Infant Mortality and Social Construction”; and Rex Wallace, UMass Amherst, “The Paithina-Network.”

Etruscan Roundtable III is scheduled for Thursday, October 10 (2013). The topic and the line-up of participants as well as particulars about time and location will be announced in September.

First Words Exhibit at Murlo, Italy

The Classics Department of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the Poggio Civitate Excavation are co-sponsoring an exhibit this summer at the Murlo Archaeological Museum, an antiquarium located in the Comune of Murlo and dedicated entirely to the Poggio Civitate excavation site. The exhibit is entitled “First Words: The Archaeology of Language at Poggio Civitate.” Anthony Tuck, the director of excavations at Poggio Civitate, is curating the exhibition with the assistance of Classics faculty and students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

This exhibit will present materials recovered from the University of Massachusetts Amherst excavation site, an aristocratic Etruscan settlement of the 8th though 6th centuries BCE. Unlike most Etruscan sites, which are known mainly through their cemeteries, Poggio Civitate preserves evidence of a range of different types of monumental architecture dating to this pivotal period in Etruscan cultural development. Over many years of excavation, a number of different types of inscribed objects have been recovered from the various buildings.

The First Words exhibit will present this critical body of evidence for literacy for the first time. These fragmentary texts represent the earliest known body of evidence for literacy among the indigenous populations of Italy recovered from social rather than funerary spaces. The archeological context not only provides the essential texts, but also a deeper appreciation of the manner in which evidence from Poggio Civitate helps us understand the social, political and economic forces that drive the adaptation of literacy.

A companion catalog accompanies the exhibit. It presents images of the various inscribed objects, some of which are exquisitely wrought in ceramic and ivory, along with popularly accessible summaries of research on the objects and their inscriptions. The catalog also serves as a synopsis of the scholarly research reflected in the exhibit and will be available at the Murlo Archaeological Museum as well as through the College of Humanities and Fine Arts at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

First Words will be on view during the months of July and August, 2013, at the Murlo Archaeological Museum. The official opening of the exhibit is scheduled for Sunday, July 7.


Symposium in honor of Nancy de Grummond

Congratulations to Nancy de Grummond of Florida State University. A symposium entitled “Artisans and Craft in Ancient Etruria” is being held in her honor on June 23 at Syracuse University in Florence. The organizer is Professor Laurel Taylor (Department of Art and Classics) of the University of North Carolina Asheville. For more information see

My colleague, Anthony Tuck (University of Massachusetts Amherst), is among the speakers at the symposium. The topic of his presentation is “Manufacturing at Poggio Civitate: Elite Consumption and Social Organization in the Etruscan 7th Century.”



New inscription from Sarteano

On display in the Museo Archeologico di Sarteano are artifacts recovered from tomb 16 of the necropolis of the Pianacce during the 2007 excavation season. Among them is an inscribed buccheroid plate (see photograph) dated to the 2nd half of the 6th century BCE.

The inscription is incised in sinistroverse direction without punctuation on the curved surface of the underside of the plate:

m<i> lariś riertu ‘I (am) Laris Riertu’.

The fact that the inscription is incised on a curved surface accounts for the rather crude shape of some of the letterforms. In addition, the scribe has made several errors. The iota of the first person pronoun mi is missing. The vertical bar of iota appears to have been mistaken for the vertical of lambda. The scribe aimed for a serpentine sigma, but was unable to execute the tail at the bottom of the letter, presumably due to the difficulty of incising on the curved surface. The error was corrected by adding an oblique bar at the bottom.

There are in addition several interesting paleographical features.

  • Lambda is smaller in size than the other letters.
  • The medial bar of the alpha is inclined in the direction of writing.
  • Rho has a full loop. In two instances the character is made by incising a pi-like shape, and then adding a stroke connecting the end of the oblique to the foot of the vertical.
  • The medial oblique bar of epsilon is longer than the upper and lower bars.
  • Sigma is written retrograde.
  • Finally, the horizontal bar of tau is inclined in the direction of writing.

The alphabet is the northern type, so sigma stands for a palatal sibilant. The personal name, lariś, is pronounced as /lariʃ/. The family name, riertu, does not appear to be a native formation. It is heretofore unattested.

Inscription on bucchero plate (Museo Archeologico, Sarteano). Photograph by Jason Bauer (7/7/11).

Etruscan Inscription from Campo della Fiera

In 2008 during excavation at Campo della Fiera (Orvieto) excavators led by Simonetta Stopponi recovered a statue base incised with an Etruscan inscription (see photograph and drawing). The base, measuring 83.3 cm (high) by 30.7 cm (wide), was recovered from the area of the sanctuary. The inscription, which is in two lines in sinistrograde ductus, begins on the front of the base and continues on the left side (see photograph and drawing). It reads as follows (the pipe | indicates the point at which the inscription runs onto the left side of the base):

top line: kanuta larecenas laute|niθa aranθia pinies puia turuce

bottom line: tlusχval marveθul faliaθ|ere

The basic structure of the inscription is clear. It is a votive dedication to the Tluskhva divinities on the part of a woman named Kanuta, who was the wife of Aranth Pinie and a freedwoman of the Larecena family. The inscription has the syntax that one would expect of a votive text: the verb turuce ‘offered’ is in construction with a genitive noun phrase tlusχval marveθul. Although the overall structure of the inscription is clear (subject NP + turuce + gentive NP), there are interpretive rough-spots.

The noun lauteniθa is the archaic antecedent of neo-Etruscan lautniθa, lautnita, which appears to be the rough equivalent of Latin liberta ’freedwoman’. Whether lauteniθa has that meaning here, at this early period, is difficult to say.

The name Kanuta appears to be Campanian in origin, as suggested by the Oscan idionym Kanuties (Sabellische Text Cm 24 ).

Tlusχval is an inanimate genitive plural form (tlus-χva-l) that refers, insofar as we can determine, to a group of divinities whose spheres of activity are not particularly clear. In a talk given last year in New York City at a conference on Etruscan Myth (November 21, 2009), Adriano Maggiani reported that the word tlusχval is attested on an inscription recently recovered from Caere and he speculated that the word may refer to divinities associated with the cult of Dionysius. Even so it is disturbing that divinities are inanimate in gender given that the word for ‘god’ is an animate and takes r-plural inflection, e.g., aiser.

The most difficult part of the inscription to interpret is marveθul faliaθ|ere. marveθul is a genitive; the stem is marveθ (neo-Etruscan marut-). The word could be the name of a divinity and so linked asyndetically to tlusχval. Another possibility is that it is an epithet of Tluskhval divinities. Stopponi (2010) thinks that marveθul is to be connected somehow to the stem maru-, which refers to a type of magistrate. But the interpretation she provides is in no way convincing.

faliaθ|ere is a locative form ‘in faliathera’. The internal structure of faliaθ|era is unclear. What the word might mean, apart from the fact that locative case suggests a place, cannot be determined from the context. Gross morphological similarities led Stopponi to connect the word with the gloss falado ‘sky’. This requires a certain amount of ad hoc pleading. As a result, the interpretation is unappealing.

Stopponi indicates that the date of the inscription is ca. 525-500 BCE. The date fits reasonably well with the palaeography. The letters belong to Maggiani’s ‘intermediate’ phase of development at Volsinii: retrograde s, but theta without a medial point; rho and khi without tails.


Stopponi, Simonetta. 2009. Campo della Fiera di Orvieto: nuove acquisizioni. Annali della Fondazione per il Museo «Claudio Faina» 16.425–478.

Photograph and Drawing: Stopponi 2009: 478.

New Raetic Inscription

A Raetic inscription incised on a small bronze plaque was published in the 2006 issue of ArchaeoTirol (see photograph). The plaque was found in a religious sanctuary discovered at Demlfeld in Ampass near Innsbruck. Excavators have recovered over 2,000 objects, mostly votive offerings, including the bronze head of a hippocampus with a Venetic inscription on the reverse: vhilone.i. /filo(:)nej/.

The plaque has four words arrayed in three lines. Portions of two letters, alphas, are visible on the 2nd line. It is possible that there was another line of text at the top of the plaque, but no letterforms are visible. Each word is written inside a box demarcated by puncts. The inscription reads as follows:

Line 1:      ???
Line 2:     ạ[ . . . . ] ạ[ . . . ]
Line 3:     upiku : taukẹ
Line 4:     kleimunteis
Line 5:     avaσ́uerasi ihi

It is possible to offer a partial interpretation of lines 3-5 of the text: “X (the object to which the plaque was affixed) was dedicated to Kleimunte by Aruashuera.” Following this interpretation, upiku is a deverbal derivative in -ku, kleimunteis a dedicatory genitive, and avaσ́uerasi a pertinentive specifying the person by whom the object was dedicated. The form and function of  tauke and ihi are not clear. (I note that the transcription in ArcheoTirol of the final word is iẹi, but the medial sign is an <h>.)

My colleague, Carlo de Simone, mentions an intriguing morphological analysis for avaσ́uerasi. He suggests that the form is a plural pertinentive, in which case the composition would be avaσ́ue-ra-si. Compare, for example, Etruscan clavtieθu-ra-si ‘members of the Clavtie-family’ (r-plural, s-pertinentive).


Tomedi, Gerhard, Simon Hye, Reinhold Lachberger, & Siegfried Nicolussi Castellan. 2006. Denkmalschutzgrabungen am Heiligtum am Demlfeld in Ampass 2006. Ein Vorbericht. ArchaeoTirol 5: 116–122.

Photograph: Raetic inscription on bronze plaque ( (Foto 24))

New Lemnian Inscription

A new Lemnian inscription was discovered recently during excavation of an ancient sanctuary at Efestia on the island of Lemnos. The inscription was incised in two lines on the upper portion of a rectangular altar measuring 50 cm. in length and 13.05 cm. in height (see photograph below). The direction of writing is boustrophedon. The upper line reads from left-to-right, the lower line from right-to-left. The inscription has 26 letters plus punctuation marks in the form of three vertically-aligned points separating words. The transcription provided below is that given by de Simone (2009). The letter š (= palatal sibilant) is a transcription of the Lemnian 4-bar sigma and the letter s (= dental or alveo-dental sibilant) of the Lemnian z-sign. Punctuation is indicated by a colon.

upper line: hktaonosi : heloke (L to R)

lower line: soromš : aslaš (R to L)

The inscription is a votive dedication offered to or, more likely, on behalf of hktaono-. hktaonosi is inflected in the pertinentive case. (Exactly how to treat the odd initial cluster hk- is not clear.) The suffix of the verb heloke matches up well with the Etruscan past tense suffix /ke/, e.g., turuce /turuke/ ‘offered’. For the construction compare Etruscan muluvanice + pertinentive.

The forms in the lower line, which probably include the subject of the utterance, are problematic. The interpretative possibilities are discussed by de Simone (2009). They are: first name + family name; first name + patronymic; first name + name of object dedicated. If the direct object is topicalized then name of object dedicated + first name is also possible. But soromš and aslaš are in the uninflected form — they are not s-gentives because they end in palatal fricatives — which means that we can rule out the idea of a patronymic. Neither word has the morphology of a family name, so we can probably rule that out as well. The words may not be personal names at all. It seems reasonable to think that at least one of the words, perhaps soromš because it occupies first position, refers to an organization or institution that was responsible for setting up the dedication. aslaš could then be the name of the object dedicated. But this is all quite speculative.

Background information about the date of discovery and about the archaeological context in which the altar was recovered has not yet been published.  The inscription is dated on paleographic grounds to the last half of the 6th century BCE, but the date must be considered provisional until archaeological reports appear in print.


de Simone, Carlo. 2009. La nuova iscrizione tirsenica di Efestia. Tripodes 11.3–58.

(Lemnian inscription on altar base. Photo: SAIA)

Langford Conference

A conference entitled “Texts, Non-Texts and Contexts: On the Varieties of Writing Experiences in the Ancient Mediterranean World” is being held at Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL on February 25-26, 2011. The conference is organized by Professor Nancy de Grummond and sponsored by the Department of Classics. For more information contact Professor Nancy de Grummond at

The first session of the conference is devoted to Etruscan:

1. Letters and symbols incised on locally produced objects from Poggio Civitate (Murlo) — Anthony Tuck & Rex Wallace, Classics Department and the Center for Etruscan Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

2. Etruscan sigla — Giovanna Bagnasco Gianni, University of Milan, & Alessandra Gobbi, University of Pavia.