Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

2,500-Year-Old Slab Offers Window into Ancient Etruscan Faith

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

2,500-Year-Old Slab Offers Window into Ancient Etruscan Faith

Article excerpt

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."

Discovering new Etruscan words - lost language of culture key to western traditions @SMU, https://t.co/QCmetnmrag pic.twitter.com/ iT5xDE7rpj-- SMUResearch.com (@smuresearch) March 29, 2016

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.

"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," added Etruscan scholar Jean MacIntosh Turfa with the University of Pennsylvania Museum, Philadelphia. "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. …

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