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The Tomb of the Warrior Prince
December 16, 2013 6:27 PM   Subscribe

In September, Italian archaeologists removed a slab door in Tarquinia and entered an untouched, newly discovered Etruscan tomb (Slideshow: Entry to Tomb, Pictures of Contents) There was much excitement to find the intact tomb of a high-status man - a warrior, a prince, a man of importance, with a lance, grave goods, and the remains of his wife. Or so it was trumpeted by the discovering team and the media. A month later … the figure on the wider slab with the lance turns out to be the female, and the man was on the other slab. Whoops! Judith Weingarten writes about the assumptions made before and after the osteological analysis (and Part II).

Etruscan tombs provide much of our best evidence of Etruscan customs, beliefs, and lifestyle. This chart of Etruscan tombs arranged by timeframe and location includes The Tomb of the Reliefs (famous for the stone reliefs of household goods and artifacts - see also this video virtual tour from the Toledo Museum), the Tomb of Hunting and Fishing (self-explanatory), and the Tomb of the Lionesses (banqueting and partying). An Italian team has been putting together 3-D virtual representations of the tomb and its contents at Monte Michele; their blog talks about the process of making the representations.

But if you just want to look at pictures of frescos and sculptures and sarcophagi from Etruscan tombs (and the occasional tumulo), here's your link.
posted by julen (14 comments total) 52 users marked this as a favorite

 
The reverse of the Red Lady - who was actually a Red Laddie who happened to be wearing jewellery.
posted by Segundus at 4:43 AM on December 17, 2013


"It's not usual to find the body of a woman with a lance," explained [Professor] Mandolesi.

Professor needs to do his research and refine his methods accordingly. From 2011: Viking Women: A Reinterpretation of the Bones.
"Interpretations of the grave goods has relied upon swords meaning male and brooches meaning female. When both swords and brooches were found, the individual was assumed male with a female offering, although McLeod argues that there is no feasible reason why a woman couldn’t be buried with a sword. When comparing analysis done by osteological assessment against the grave good based assessment, McLeod found that the ratio of males to females was more equal. Using skeletal materials to sex an individual can be difficult if the remains are fragmentary or damaged, but it is more reliable than interpreting sex from grave goods which are assigned by unknown cultural standards rather than biology."
No date on this, but looks to be from the 1990s from dates at the main site: Sex and Gender in the interpretation of Iron Age archeological finds.
This short treatment of the subject cannot resolve the problems of sex and gender in studies in the European Iron Age. The questions are laid out in an urgent plea for a reevaluation of the material and our approaches to it in respect to sex and gender analysis.
[...]
Iron Age Europe exposes, more clearly than perhaps any other field of archaeological inquiry, to what degree modern interpretations of ancient gender are the products of our modern-day constructs of the male and female. A simple example is the distress caused archaeologists by the inclusion of drinking vessels in apparently female burials. In 1934, Jacobsthal was horrified at the suggestion that the Kleinaspergle burial might be female, thus exposing the ancient women of Swabia as lushes the equals of their Etruscan counterparts (1934, 19). It is in the same tone of horror that young scholars and excavators react today when asked about the possibility that a burial containing weapons might be female (oral communications, Spring 1995). Since the mere presence of weapons has led to the statistical resexing of anthropologically female skeletons as male [see I.], we should not be surprised by the attitude toward gender revealed in the preliminary publications of the ongoing Glauberg excavation. The first report, in 1995, was entitled "Celtic Princess with Rich Dowry" (note 2). When further X-ray examination revealed the presence of spear points, however, the very next report simply changed the identity of the occupant of the tomb to male (Herrmann 1995, 47-48). It will be extremely interesting to see what the skeleton will reveal, once the excavation has reached that point.
The spindle and the Spear: a critical enquiry into the construction and meaning of gender in the early Anglo-Saxon burial rite
Based on burial data from 46 Anglo-Saxon cemeteries, Nick Stoodley presents a much needed study of gender issues. A thorough investigation of the attribution of grave goods to either male or female, and of skeletal sexing, leads to a re-assessment of the assumption that weapons and tools = male, and jewellery and dress accessories = female.
Gender, Grave Goods and Status in British Columbia Burials: "A gender-based analysis of burials from the coast of British Columbia shows that there are no significant differences in the frequency of burial, or grave goods, between male and female burials."
posted by fraula at 5:23 AM on December 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


*puts in requisite appearance*




But seriously, this is cool. Thanks for posting it!
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 5:52 AM on December 17, 2013 [14 favorites]


Is there any theory as to why one was cremated and not the other? I see that cremation was usual in the earliest period and gradually became less common, but one of each in the same tomb seems unexpected.
posted by Segundus at 6:11 AM on December 17, 2013


Segundus, I wondered that, too, and thought that it might be that one of the pair committed suicide or was executed and then was cremated so that the primary deceased person would not be alone in the underworld, like the Scythians, the early Chinese emperors, etc.
posted by jfwlucy at 6:48 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


It simply could reflect a difference in status.
posted by Thing at 7:11 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


It might reflect a difference in funerary traditions - cremation hung on longer among northern Etruscans than among those further south; similarly if the husband predeceased the wife, they might have cremated him while the tomb was being prepared for them both or until they could be interred at the same time. A lot of this will be guesswork and theory; we don't have a lot of written knowledge about the Etruscan funerary practices.

Most contemporaneous or near-contemporaneous writings about the Etruscans were mostly general (more like an encyclopaedia entry than a detailed analysis of the culture). This is one of the reasons why the tombs are so important - art historians, historians, and archaeologists look at the goods they are buried with, the images on the walls, and the manners in which the burial was done to try to broaden their knowledge of the culture.

Most of the writing about the Etruscans were done by the Romans who were happy to slurp up their technology and techniques, give no credit, and then act like the Etruscans were a wild provincial rebellious peasantry who were improved by being sucked into the Roman empire and their superior technology, techniques, and culture. There's also some coverage by the Greeks (whose culture had a distinctive impact on Etruscan culture), but a lot of the historical modern view was defined by how the Romans treated them in their own history, which is as vanquished local tribes integrated into Empire.

Almost all of the Etruscan writing that has been found is religious in nature, and usually comes in the forms of exhortations, omens, or is instructional (on a how to read entrails sculptural chart).
posted by julen at 7:37 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh man, the Etruscans are the best. Crazy insane metalwork? So many fancy Athenian vases that scholars thought they were Etruscan, not Greek? Winged demons? Co-ed parties? Incredibly molded terracotta figures? Faience from Egypt, gold from the near east, glass from the Levant, imported wine? Oh yes: they had that. Want to look inside a cinerary urn or just learn more about them? Learn more about their civilization? Take a virtual tour of an Etruscan museum? See some of the most incredible objects from the Etruscan world, including the incredible gold Pyrgi tablets, written in both Etruscan and Phoenician? Read articles from eleven years of the journal Etruscan Studies, including articles on textiles and Etruscan women (or just see the Etruscan News for quick reviews of exhibits and scholars?)

In conclusions, Etruria was a land of contrasts. Awesome, awesome contrasts.
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:46 AM on December 17, 2013 [13 favorites]


I realize my anthropology education is out-of-date, having left college in the mid-90s but, IIRC, bones can show indications of repetitive motions the body performed. Would the researchers be able to determine whether the body with the spear used it on a regular basis? It's one (exciting) thing to re-evaluate that 'weapon' doesn't mean 'male body' but I'm also wondering if it can be shown a female used the weapon near her. Is the weapon a personal belonging (her lance) or a ritualistic offering (head of household)?

I still shake my head in wonder like I did two decades ago in college over the obvious sexism in the determinations made in the field of anthropology.
posted by _paegan_ at 8:22 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I find it so satisfying that we can and do undermine these gender-based assumptions of who did what based on the grave goods. The fact that we have to is depressing, and the way the media reacts is depressing, but at least we now do report that the woman is the one with the fancy tomb or the spear or whatever (the Viking bones were also what came immediately to my mind on hearing about this).
posted by immlass at 10:40 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been feeling a little bad for slagging the Romans that much (I probably went 10% too far). In fact, some upper class Romans sent their sons to the Etruscans to be educated (much as they did with Greece) and after the Etruscans had been totally assimilated let some of the upper-class Etruscans be their King in the 6th Century BCE. And of course, they totally wanted the fine goldwork and vessels and art produced by the Etruscans. And their skills with engineering and water systems and architecture. And their writing system (which they adapted from the greeks). And their trading routes/partnerships. And etc.
posted by julen at 10:53 AM on December 17, 2013


Yeah, at the beginning, the Romans weren't really the Evil Empire, they were just another regional power-thirsty group, right? The full assimilation of the Etruscans took centuries, even if the Romans were always very bad at citing their (engineering/cultural) sources.


Postscriptum: BIRRA ETRUSCA! This is really nice and comes in an enormous bottle and if your e-ring is Etruscan revival, you will probably get a lot of it as gifts! Also it's educational. It's basically drinking for science.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:53 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Etruscans are awesome and I have had a beef about identifying ancient remains through gendered grave goods since summer 1995.
posted by bq at 5:07 PM on December 17, 2013


Oh man I forgot the thing that always bugs me about gender issues in (some) archaeological contexts-- usually the books that try to readdress or reasses space use, grave goods, etc. seem to fall under the umbrella of feminist archaeology. Which is not to diminish the absolute importance of feminist/gender archaeology for the discipline, but seriously, in a lot of cases it's more like "Oh My God They Ignored The Evidence" archaeology or "Trying To Fix Really Bad Scholarship" archaeology or heck "WHY DO WE HAVE SCIENCE TO TELL US AWESOME THINGS IF YOU'RE GOING TO IGNORE IT ANYWAY BECAUSE OF REASONS" archaeology. Some really interesting reassessments seem like they get kind of pushed into this subset of gender studies even when the information is widely applicable and relevant, because heaven forbid we talk more about assumptions about status and role and objects in archaeology 101 courses, or stress that more in popular contexts so that it gets discussed in sixth grade world history classes and Discovery channel specials.
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:03 AM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


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