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2.1 Etruscan pottery studies and the place of this study

The fact that the urban centres, temples and tombs have received the most archaeological attention has had a strong influence on the study of Etruscan artefacts. Most of the finds in the museums of the world have been found in tombs. Many of the pieces were acquired when controlled excavations were rare. The business of opening tombs in the 19th century is vividly described by George Dennis, ´This is generally a process requiring great care and tenderness, little of which, however, was here used, for it was seen by the first objects brought to light that nothing of value was to be expected - hoc miserae plebi stabat sepulchrum. Coarse pottery of unfigured, unvarnished ware, and a variety of small vases in black clay, were its only produce; and as they drew them forth, the labourers crushed them beneath their feet as things ´cheaper than seaweed´. In vain we pleaded to save some from destruction; they were roba di sciocchezza - ´foolish stuff´ - the capo was inexorable; his orders were to destroy immediately whatever was of no pecuniary value, and he could not allow us to carry away one of these relics which he so despised.´ (Dennis 1878, 450). This case was not isolated and much evidence has been destroyed. Attitudes have now changed, but on the whole it is the Greek wares, figured wares and fine wares from Etruscan contexts which have received the most scholarly attention and so are best understood.

In the past thirty years, with the increase in settlement archaeology, there has been a growing interest in everyday domestic Etruscan pottery but the study is still only beginning. Now there are a number of studies of pottery from individual sites from various parts of Etruria, for example Veii (Murray Threipland 1963; Murray Threipland and Torelli 1970, the Tolfa mountains (Zifferero 1980, Pyrgi (Pyrgi 1970), Murlo (Bouloumiť 1972; Bouloumiť Marique 1978), The Val d´Elsa (De Marinis 1977) or the Agro Fiorentino (Capecci 1987). These studies, and others do not yet provide enough information for a detailed account of the chronological development or spatial distribution of different types of coarse wares.

Up until now no collections of Etruscan coarsewares from field survey have been published. The material from the South Etruria Survey has not been studied in detail and other survey work is too recent to have been published. This present study, along with the pottery from the city at Doganella in the lower Albegna Valley (Perkins and Walker 1990) and the farm at Podere Tartuchino (Attolini and Perkins 1992), forms the first publication of Etruscan pottery collected in a regional survey. Similar comprehensive studies of ceramics from other surveyed areas will in the future lead to a fuller understanding of Etruscan pottery. The study of ceramics from survey evidence is important because it allows a consideration of material culture at a regional scale rather than as an assemblage from a single site. Evidence from the pottery studies also feeds back into the evidence of the landscape archaeology and is particularly important in reconstructing economic activity at individual sites and in the region as a whole.


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Last updated: Fri Nov 13 1998