Monday, June 29, 2009

2009.06.55

Version at BMCR home site
Margarita Gleba, Hilary Becker (ed.), Votives, Places and Rituals in Etruscan Religion. Studies in Honor of Jean MacIntosh Turfa. Religions in the Graeco-Roman World; 166. Leiden: Brill, 2008. Pp. xliv, 291. ISBN 978004170452. $154.00.
Reviewed by Liza Cleland, University of Edinburgh

[Authors and titles listed at the end of the review.]

As well as the Introduction and prefatory material typical of a Festschrift, this substantial volume contains fourteen chapters on specific aspects of the archaeology of Etruscan religion from the international symposium 'Unveiling Etruscan Religion', at the University of Pennsylvania, 2007. Overall, these provide new material of interest not only to Etruscan specialists but also to those interested in the wider archaeology of ritual. The papers vary widely in scope, approach, and length, as well as topic, but are of a consistent quality. As a whole, the volume provides a welcome overview of the present nature of Etruscan scholarship, and is a very useful addition to general scholarship on Mediterranean ritual archaeology. It is well-indexed, and has over fifty black and white illustrations.

The fourteen main chapters are divided into three sections: votives, places and rituals. The first two chapters remain in their original French, emphasising the international nature of the volume (their language is clear even for readers of relatively minimal fluency). However, readers likely to find this off-putting might perhaps have been more comfortable had the non-English chapters not been placed together at the very start of the volume.

MG and HB provide a concise introduction, emphasising that the volume interrogates fundamental topics from various perspectives: "Ritual can best be mapped by uniting a range of disparate and often overlapping information, including not only ancient textual sources but also inscriptions, votive objects and the sites themselves" (p. 2). Indeed, the chapters provide case studies not only of different types of evidence, but also of the variety of possible approaches and their impacts. These confirm that "Etruria offers an exceptional opportunity to probe . . . ritual practices in the ancient world, because of the diverse range of evidence available for the study of Etruscan religion" (p. 3).

Jean Gran-Aymerich's 'Gli Etruschi fuori d'Etruria: Dons et Offrandes Étrusques en Méditeranée Occidental et dans l'Ouest de l'Europe' provides a thoroughgoing survey of Etruscan ritual artefacts found outside Etruria, with a welcome focus on the West. The emphasis on votive character for either find or findspot is interesting and justified, as are detailed arguments concerning whether each indicates pure trade or accompanying ritual use by travelling Etruscans. JG-A makes a convincing case for further work on these areas, and for a perspective on Etruscan ritual and religion which extends far beyond Etruscan territory in all periods. In terms of subject, this contribution is right where it should be, emphasising the reach (in space and time) of Etruscan influence.

In contrast, the focus of Dominique Briquel's 'Les Inscriptions Votives du Sanctuaire de Portonaccio à Véies' is very tight. Dealing with artefacts from the period 600-540/30 BCE, DB discusses a rich store of dedicants' names inscribed on fragments found in a foundation deposit of the second-phase sanctuary at Veii. This technical chapter goes into great detail about these inscriptions, relating them in style as well as content to other dedications from across Etruria, and so drawing the limited conclusions possible about the location of various aristocratic families in this early period. DB gives a valuable model for what can be done with this type of evidence, and the general conclusion that this sanctuary was of pan-Etruscan significance impacts the volume overall.

Margarita Gleba's 'Textile Tools in Ancient Italian Votive Contexts: Evidence of Dedication or Production' closes the 'Votives' section. MG begins with an exemplary general outline of the topic of votive loom-weights (a feature in many Mediterranean contexts) which contextualises her argument about specifically Etruscan finds. This deals particularly well with the ubiquity of loom-weights in the ancient world, and their associated problems as evidence. Clear information on deposits and sites for the less common contexts is also very welcome, as is the fact that the references discussed 'open up' the topic effectively. The conclusion -- that large finds of loom weights, even in ritual contexts, indicate workshops not deposition -- is well supported, and should lead to more widespread publication of the details of loom-weight finds, not simply their amounts). A map in-text would have been very welcome.

Hilary Becker's chapter on 'The Economic Agency of the Etruscan Temple: Elites, Dedications and Display' opens the 'Places' section. Discussion is set against the statement (p. 89) that "religious dedications provided another outlet for socio-economic transactions between elites . . . an opportunity for aristocratic competition and display . . . 'sanctioned by and mediated through the gods' (Whitney 2001, 144)." The volume of dedications, role of votives as temple assets, and the open-endedness of elite dedication (as opposed to the constraints of reciprocity in intra-elite gift exchange) are all well discussed, raising interesting questions. The emphasis on redistribution could well be considered in terms of time, as well as throughout the community, and the issue of the 'disposability' of elite dedications might also be considered in terms of 'ring-fencing' or investing resources, rather than simple sacrifice.

Ingrid Edlund-Berry's 'The Historical and Religious Context of Vows Fulfilled in Etruscan Temple Foundations' is short and to-the-point, but perhaps raises more questions than it answers. Proceeding by contrast with Roman temple-building practices, IE-B suggests that the opposition between temples and sanctuaries is of particularly Roman origin. This sound point might have been made more strongly. Similarly, the idea that social factors played a part in Etruscan temple foundations analogous to Roman vows deserves further attention.

P. Gregory Warden's chapter, 'Remains of the Ritual at the Sanctuary of Poggio Colla' is a clear report of new evidence, with convincing arguments regarding possible understandings of specific rituals, and social context. Its central premise, that "evidence from . . . Poggio Colla raises questions about whether such sacred contexts would always have remained closed" (p.108), is of great importance for ritual archaeology. A further issue is implied: if closed contexts were not the norm (yet evidence is innately biased towards them) how might we compensate in analysing evidence? PGW makes a further point "While the nature of a single offering can be understood, at least in the most generic and banal way, aggregate ritual evidence can have the most diverse meanings . . ." (p.108). 'Votive' should not be seen as an answer, but rather the beginning of a series of questions. Among these, PGW suggests, are issues about parallels between individual or community action and single votives or deposit complexes, alongside the importance of social contexts and change. Again, a plan in-text would have helped greatly.

Stephen Steingräber's chapter, 'The Cima Tumulus at San Giuliano -- An Aristocratic Tomb and Monument for the Cult of the Ancestors of the Late Orientalizing Period' has a similarly direct focus, if less general engagement with wider issues in the archaeology of ritual. For a wider readership, SS also gives an excellent sense of the ritual landscape surrounding this unusual tumulus. It is good to remember that ancient explanations of ritual action are not without their own problems.

Iefke von Kampen's 'Stone Sculpture in the Context of Etruscan Tombs: A Note on its Position' comprises, for the most part, a survey of such sculptures with details of the problematic aspects of their find and/or excavation histories. Such treatment of an often neglected aspect of the modern history of scholarship is welcome. IvK raises the important consideration of differences in the perception and practice of visibility, past and present.

Gilda Bartolini's 'The Earliest Etruscan Toast. Considerations on the Earliest Phases of Populonia' outlines the complexity of Populonian settlement archaeology, and what needs to be done to maximise its utility. GB makes interesting use of Greek written sources (with their oral context) to contextualise the theorised ritual, widening its implications. This might have been even more effective if the chapter had begun with its detailed argument about ritual, widening to include the complexity of the settlement archaeology, rather than giving the broad picture first.

Nancy T. de Grummond's 'On Mutilated Mirrors' is, like its title, clear and concise (the last five pages survey the artefacts). This chapter goes beyond the simple concept of destruction for the dead to make wider links with Etruscan ritual and thought, using an interesting application of theory and abstractions to particular cases in doing so. This approach is persuasive, and one hopes that others will take up its challenge: "that those studying [artefacts] . . . close at hand will be alert to . . . physical conditions . . . that may bring greater understanding" (p. 177).

Larissa Bonfante's 'Ritual Dress' is an excellent concise summary of the topic, which should encourage readers to look more closely at ritual dress. Its 'working back' of Roman ritual dress to reveal Etruscan practices is interesting. Dress in art is frustrating, yet it does remain a unique source for contemporary significance: more than the forms themselves, this is difficult to ascertain from Roman sources. The points made here about 'legacy' aspects of ritual dress (for instance, how aristocratic shapes, as of helmets, persisted in new fabrics) are immensely important, highlighting the processes of dress practice formation.

Fay Glinister's 'Veiled and Unveiled: Uncovering Roman Influence in Hellenistic Italy' maintains the focus on dress, arguing convincingly that 'veiled means Roman' is too simplistic: "whether people covered their heads while sacrificing. . . encompasses questions of identity, Romanisation and acculturation" (p. 194). FG's summary of Roman veiling and sacrificial practices and use of detailed evidence to defy simplistic assumptions are excellent. The necessity of challenging past assumptions (that assume simple and direct links between one look and one factor in the study of dress) is supported by the overall conclusion. "The significance of the veil lay in the nature of the ritual required, and so the same worshipper could use a different mode of sacrifice -- depending on the god, on a particular festival, even on a single specific moment of a festival" (p. 211).

L. Bouke van der Meer's short chapter 'On the Enigmatic Deity Lur in the Liber Linteus Zagrabensis' illustrates some of the available lexicographic sources for Etruscan religion. In doing so, it certainly whets the appetite for a monograph: the subject clearly requires both more detail, and more general discussion.

Finally, Marshall Joseph Becker's 'Cremation and Comminution at Etruscan Tarquina in the 5th-4th Century BCE: Insights into Cultural Transformations from Tomb 6322' provides an excellent outline of approaches that deliver valuable information from even the simplest grave. While acknowledging the many obstacles to obtaining such maximal data, MJB sets out a clear program for overcoming them. In the process, he also demonstrates the importance of considering remains of every status, not simply those with complete skeletal remains and rich assemblages.

Considering the complexity and range of evidence discussed, I would have liked an Afterword. However, the arrangement of subjects overall is thoughtful and effective, so it is a shame this volume is rather expensive -- it deserves a wide readership. Many of the illustrations are simple line drawings which would have been more useful spread throughout the text on plain paper, rather than confined to the photo section at the rear. There are few typos, although several of the second-language papers would have been better served by closer editing to correct occasional infelicities. This volume has much to commend it, and will hopefully have the impact on future work advocated by its contributors.

Contents:

List of Illustrations xi
Tabula Gratulatoria xv
Jean MacIntosh Turfa -- An Appreciation xxii
Bibliography of Jean MacIntosh Turfa xxvii
Editors' Preface xxxiii
Authors xxxv
Bibliographic Abbreviations xli
Introduction (Hilary Becker and Margarita Gleba) 1

Part One -- Votives
Ch.1'Gli Etruschi fuori d'Etruria: Dons et Offrandes Étrusques en Méditeranée Occidental et dans l'Ouest de l'Europe' Jean Gran-Aymerich 15
Ch.2 'Les Inscriptions Votives du Sanctuaire de Portonaccio à Véies' Dominique Briquel 43
Ch.3 'Textile Tools in Ancient Italian Votive Contexts: Evidence of Dedication or Production' Margarita Gleba 69

Part Two -- Places
Ch.4 'The Economic Agency of the Etruscan Temple: Elites, Dedications and Display' Hilary Becker 87
Ch.5 'The Historical and Religious Context of Vows Fulfilled in Etruscan Temple Foundations' Ingrid Edlund-Berry 101
Ch.6 'Remains of the Ritual at the Sanctuary of Poggio Colla' P. Gregory Warden 107
Ch.7 'The Cima Tumulus at San Giuliano -- An Aristocratic Tomb and Monument for the Cult of the Ancestors of the Late Orientalizing Period' Stephen Steingräber 123
Ch.8 'Stone Sculpture in the Context of Etruscan Tombs: A Note on its Position' Iefke von Kampen 135

Part Three - Rituals
Ch.9 'The Earliest Etruscan Toast. Considerations on the Earliest Phases of Populonia' Gilda Bartolini 159
Ch.10 'On Mutilated Mirrors' Nancy T. de Grummond 171
Ch.11 'Ritual Dress' Larissa Bonfante 183
Ch.12 'Veiled and Unveiled: Uncovering Roman Influence in Hellenistic Italy' Fay Glinister 193
Ch.13'On the Enigmatic Deity Lur in the Liber Linteus Zagrabensis' L. Bouke van der Meer 217
Ch.14 'Cremation and Comminution at Etruscan Tarquina in the 5th-4th Century BCE: Insights into Cultural Transformations from Tomb 6322' Marshall Joseph Becker 229

Illustrations Section 249
Index of Places 285
General Index 289

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