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6.2 Greek fine wares

One of the clearest observations which can be made is that imported Greek figured fine wares are almost absent in the survey collection. This is in stark contrast to the presentation of Etruscan ceramic collections in the galleries of the world´s museums where Corinthian, Attic red figured and black figured wares are usually prominently displayed. The survey work in the Albegna valley clearly demonstrates that Greek imported wares are not commonly found by field survey in the Etruscan countryside. None were found in rural surface scatters and none were found in the excavation of the farm site at Podere Tartuchino (Attolini and Perkins 1992). One abraded sherd from Doganella was tentatively identified as red figure (Perkins and Walker 1990, fig. 26.25) and a sherd of black gloss ware from Doganella has been published as Attic (Michelucci 1984, 383); limited excavation and publication at Doganella have not recovered figured Greek wares (Michelucci 1984; Michelucci 1985). Greek vases have been found in the valley but only in tombs, for example in the necropolises of Magliano and Saturnia (Minto 1925; 1935). The necropolises of Doganella have not been explored so it is not possible to demonstrate that Greek pots were used in the city cemeteries as they were so spectacularly at nearby Vulci. This absence of Greek painted wares in the countryside seems to hold for survey work in south Etruria too, since they are not mentioned as a site find in the South Etruria Survey (Potter 1979, 71-2), but then the Etruscan finds from the survey have never been fully published. How far this pattern may be generalised to other parts of Etruria will only become clear as more survey work is published. It would seem that at least in the Albegna Valley/Ager Cosanus the rural ´poor Etruscans´ did not use Greek pots as fancy table ware (contra Vickers 1985/6).

Can this perceived absence of imported fine wares in the countryside be taken at face value? At least in the Albegna Valley/Ager Cosanus survey the scale of the fieldwork and the quantity of finds, along with the fact that the plough does not discriminate between classes of pottery, suggest that there is no systematic bias against the collection of painted wares. We may be satisfied that imported Greek wares were not incorporated into the archaeological record along with other debris and the remains of buildings. But this does not necessarily imply that Greek vases were not used in the countryside, for it is possible that Greek vessels were used but were not discarded at rural settlements along with the other pottery which the survey did find. At present, the distribution of imported Greek wares in the survey area suggests that they were mainly deposited in tombs and only rarely discarded at settlements. This pattern of distribution can also be seen in other fine wares, for example Etrusco-Corinthian or thin-walled Bucchero, both of which are almost absent from the survey finds but have been found in tombs in the necropolises of the valley. There is no direct evidence to explain why the imported fine wares are preferentially found in tombs but possible explanations fall into the following categories

This list is not exhaustive but it serves to illustrate the complexity of the problem and the possible range of explanations for the observed patterning in the data. The more general issue of the importation and use of Greek pottery in Etruria has been considered by Nigel Spivey (1991) and some of the themes listed above are discussed in detail with examples. The evidence from the survey allows the issue to be viewed from the angle of the rural population. This indicates that the imported pottery did not end up on rural middens in large quantities. Figured ware has been found at some sites, for example Forcello (Paribeni 1986), Arteminio (Capecci 1987, 78-81), and Poggio Civitate, Murlo (Phillips 1989), but it is unwise to generalise because so few small rural Etruscan sites have been excavated and published in detail, and none of the three sites listed were small rural farms. It could be argued that fine vases did not reach rural sites, but the evidence does not support this: Greek pots have been found in the Albegna valley at Saturnia (Minto 1925), far from the sea, and the distribution of other types of ceramics demonstrates that there was a well-developed network of exchange between the city and the countryside which could have taken imported wares into remote areas. The evidence we do have suggests that the fine imports ended up in tombs. This in turn implies that ritual behavior in conjunction with the factors mentioned above determined the distribution patterns of the imported fine wares in the survey area.

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