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The Etruscan Seated Banquet: Villanovan Ritual and Etruscan Iconography

Author(s): Anthony S. Tuck


Source: American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 98, No. 4 (Oct., 1994), pp. 617-628
Published by: Archaeological Institute of America
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/506549 .
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The Etruscan Seated
Banquet:
Villanovan Ritual and Etruscan
Iconography
ANTHONY S. TUCK
Abstract
The
banquet
was one of the most
popular
and con-
sistent
funerary
motifs in ancient Etruria. The earliest
banquet
scenes
depict people sitting,
whereas later
representations
show
banqueters reclining
on couches.
By examining
these
primordial
seated
banquet
scenes,
we see the
representation
of an
already cogent iconog-
raphy.
The deceased is either
depicted
at a meal or
ancestor
figures
are shown
welcoming
the
newly
de-
ceased to the
banquet.
The characterization of the de-
ceased at a meal is a
funerary
theme that also finds
expression
in the earlier tomb
groups
of the Villano-
van
period.
It is
argued
here that new
foreign
artistic
models of enthroned
figures
are
adopted
and
manipu-
lated in the
Orientalizing period
because
they
could be
used to
express
a
preexisting funerary
theme of the
deceased at a meal.*
The renewal of contact and trade between Etruria
and the eastern Mediterranean
during
the Orien-
talizing period brought
new
goods
and materials
flooding
into the
region.
Craftsmen
working
in met-
al, ceramic,
and other materials
quickly
assimilated
foreign
forms and motifs into their own
production
repertoire.
It is within this crucible of social
change
that Etruscan culture
emerged
in its
fully developed
form.
It is
important
to understand this not
only
as a
revolution,
but also an evolution. The
exposure
to
and
adoption
of various artistic motifs
certainly
had
a
profound
effect on the material culture of the
peo-
ple
we
today categorize
as
Villanovan,
but these are
changes
in means and modes of
expression.
As
Ridgway
has
put
it,
"any degree
of
indigenous
eth-
nic
unity
that underlines the Villanovan culture
must be attributed to the Etruscans themselves in
the Iron
Age phase
of their
development."'1
In
the midst of abundant evidence for the
impact
of eastern contact, however, the effect of
any
Villanovan
"indigenous
ethnic
unity"
on the devel-
opment
of
many
Etruscan
practices
is often over-
looked. It is reasonable to assume that
many
ele-
ments of distinctive Villanovan cultural
unity
would
find new means of
expression
in later Etruscan con-
texts. While the form of
expression may
be new, the
cultural
continuity
between the Villanovan and
Etruscan
periods
is illustrated
by
the
consistency
of
expressed
themes. One element of this cultural con-
tinuity may
be found in
funerary
contexts with the
thematic
expression
of the meal of the dead. In or-
der to assess the
impact
of Villanovan ritual on
early
Etruscan
banquet
scenes, it is
helpful
to examine
some of the earliest
depictions
of
funerary banquets
found in Etruria.
De Marinis has noted that
representations
of ban-
queting
in Etruscan art
initially
show
people sitting,
while in later
representations funerary banquets
are
depicted
with individuals
reclining
on
couches.2
The earliest
surviving depiction
of such a
funerary
seated
banquet
in Etruscan art takes the form of an
attached
plastic
scene found on the lid of a biconical
cremation urn known as the Montescudaio urn
(figs. 1-2).
The urn is
generally
dated to ca. 650-625
B.C., based on the
rendering
and
style
of the hu-
man
figures
and the
plastic geometric
decoration on
the
body
of the urn,
although
some scholars
place
it
slightly
later.3 It was found
just
outside the town of
Montescudaio, near
Volterra,
at the
beginning
of
this
century.
In the scene, a
figure
is seated on a
chair in front of a round
tripod
table. To the left of
the seated
figure
is a
standing
female attendant.
*
I owe an enormous debt of thanks to
many people
for
their
suggestions
and
support, especially
Gloria
Pinney,
Brunilde
Ridgway,
and
Jean
Turfa for their
insightful
comments and criticisms of an earlier draft of this
paper.
I
am also
very grateful
to R. Ross
Holloway,
Rolf
Winkes,
Martha S.
Joukowsky,
Erik
Nielsen,
and
Mary
P Tuck for
their
willingness
to discuss
many problems
and
suggest
revisions. The
AJA
reviewers, Larissa Bonfante and Rich-
ard De
Puma, were also
extremely helpful
in
pointing
out
pertinent
issues that I had
neglected
and
suggesting
valu-
able corrections.
Special
thanks are owed to
Jen Rowley,
Tony Kugler,
Michael
Smith, Michele
Kunitz,
and Anne
Leinster for their
support
and
friendship.
'
D.
Ridgway,
The First Western Greeks
(Cambridge 1992)
127.
2 S. De Marinis, La
tipologia
del banchetto nell'arte etrusca
arcaica
(Rome 1961) 114.
3
H.D. Anderson, "The Etruscan Ancestor Cult-Its
Origin
and
Development
and the
Importance
of Anthro-
pomorphization," AnalRom
21
(1993) 31; E
Magi,
"L'os-
suario di
Montescudaio,"
Atti del
primo simposio
italiano
(Rome 1969)
127-28 n.
25,
suggests
a lower date at the
end of the seventh or
early
sixth
century
B.C.
617
American
Journal of Archaeology
98
(1994)
617-28
618 ANTHONY S. TUCK
[AJA
98
Across the table is a
high
footed olla and a scar
where another element was
attached,
either an-
other vessel or
perhaps
a chair for a second ban-
queter.4
A
representation
of a seated
banquet
scene
slightly
later than the Montescudaio urn comes
from the Tomb of the Five Chairs at
Cerveteri,
dated
to the final third of the seventh
century
on the basis
of the form of the rock-carved
tomb.5 According
to
Prayon's
reconstruction,
a terracotta
figure
was
originally placed
on each of the five rock-carved
thrones in a side chamber of the cruciform tomb
(figs. 3-4).
Two stone
tables,
carved from the
rock,
were located in front of the chairs. To
complete
this
arrangement, Prayon
further reconstructs a
large
basket and libation table and a
rectangular
base that
was used for two additional
cylindrical
thrones.6
Of the five
figures,
three are male and two are
female,
which is
interesting
since
many
later
repre-
sentations of
reclining banquets depict
women re-
clining
with men. Erroneous
early
reconstructions
of the
figures placed
the two
surviving
female heads
onto two of the three
surviving
torsos.' The fibula
form worn
by
all three torsos
suggests
that
they
be-
long
to
males.8
All exhibit what Bonfante describes
as a
"ritual
pose."9
The left arm is hidden beneath a
cloak or shroud and
only
the hand is visible. The
right
arm extends outward with the
palm upturned.
The
fragmentary
seated
figure
on the Montes-
cudaio urn
may
be reconstructed as
gesturing
in the
same
way.
Once
again,
we see this
gesture
on a late
sixth-century funerary
stele from Fiesole with two
scenes of
banqueting (fig. 5).10
The
upper register
has a scene of a
reclining banquet
while the lower
scene shows two
people sitting
at a table with the
figure
on the
right
side
extending
his
right
arm with
palm upturned
toward the
figure
on the left side.
There
are, however,
scenes of
people sitting
and
eating
that do not utilize this
gesture.
On a bucchero
chalice from Pienza" decorated with an
impression
from a
cylinder
seal
as well as some
cylinder
seal
impressions
illustrated
by Micali12 we
see
figures,
Fig.
1.
Montescudaio urn,
full view.
(After
E
Nicosia,
StEtr
37
[1969] pl. XCIIIc)
seated on
campstools
or
chairs,
eating
and
drinking.
While the ceramics decorated with these scenes
probably
come from tomb
contexts,
there is no rea-
son to assume that
they
were
specifically produced
4 E
Nicosia,
"I1
cinerario di
Montescudaio,"
StEtr 37
(1969) 389,
believes another olla
occupied
this
position;
Magi (supra
n.
3)
126 believes the
position
was
occupied
by
a
cylindrical
throne for another
banqueter.
5 E
Prayon,
"Zur
Datierung
der drei
friuhetruskischen
Sitzstatuetten aus
Cerveteri,"
RM 82
(1975)
166.
6
Prayon (supra
n.
5)
166-67.
7
L.
Bonfante,
Etruscan Dress
(Baltimore 1975)
150.
8
Bonfante
(supra
n.
7)
150.
9
Bonfante
(supra
n.
7)
95.
10 A.
Rathje,
"The
Adoption
of the Homeric
Banquet
in
Central
Italy
in the
Orientalizing
Period,"
in
O. Murray
ed.,
Sympotica (Oxford 1989) 285,
mentions several exam-
ples
of Chiusine
grave
stelae that
depict
two
banquet
scenes,
one
reclining
and one
seated,
presumably
similar
to the stele from Fiesole. She
says,
however,
only
that she
learned of them from
Kyle Phillips
and mentions no bibli-
ography.
1
M.
Monaci,
"Catalogo
del Museo
archeologico
vescovile di
Pienza,"
StEtr 33
(1965) pl.
XCIb.
12 G.
Micali,
Storia
degli
antichi
popoli
italiani (Florence
1832) pl.
XX.4, 19,
and 21. Micali does not
specify
the
provenance
of these vases.
1994]
VILLANOVAN RITUAL AND ETRUSCAN ICONOGRAPHY 619
Fig.
2. Montescudaio
urn,
detail of lid.
(After
E
Nicosia,
StEtr 37
[1969] pl. XCVII)
O~
O~
Oo/
Fig.
3. Tomb of the Five Chairs at Cerveteri. Reconstruc-
tion of left dromos chamber.
(After
E
Prayon,
MarbWPr
1974, fig. 2)
X
A
~ j~ IL
Fig.
4. Tomb of the Five Chairs at
Cerveteri.
Reconstruc-
tion of statue on throne.
(After
E
Prayon,
MarbWPr
1974,
fig. 3)
for a funeral because of the scenes
they depict.
Con-
versely,
the Montescudaio
urn,
the statues from the
Tomb of the Five
Chairs,
and the stele from Fiesole
all are
clearly funerary
and were
produced spe-
cifically
for that
purpose.
Therefore,
while it is
ap-
parent
that seated
dining
also took
place
in non-
funerary
contexts,
the common
gesture
of the
figures
at seated
banquets
from
funerary
contexts
suggests
that more is
represented
than
simple
scenes of
people eating.
The
funerary
seated ban-
quet
scenes
may
indeed
employ
an
iconography
specifically
related to the death ritual.
620 ANTHONY S. TUCK
[AJA 98
Fig.
5. Stele from Fiesole.
(After J.
Martha,
Eart &trusque
[Paris 1889] fig. 165)
The
interpretation
of this
gesture
is a difficult is-
sue.
Anderson,
following
Bartoloni,
theorizes that a
similar
gesture
seen on small
standing figures
from
a few
early
Iron
Age
Latian tomb
groups
is con-
nected to
eating.13
On the dubious
strength of
stamped figured
scenes with
comparable gestures
by figures
with
right
arms outstretched and
palms
upturned, standing
or
sitting
in front of a line of
figures,
this
gesture might
be construed as one of
welcoming.14
Such an
interpretation
is
plausible
in the context
of the Tomb of the Five Chairs. As mentioned above,
the "Cult Room" contained a stone
platform
that
was used as a base for two
cylindrical
thrones that
are now lost. The
platform
was situated on the wall
adjacent
to the wall with the five chairs and statues.
Anderson has
recently suggested
that these thrones
were intended to be
symbolically
used
by
the
newly
deceased for whom the tomb was carved, a
plausible
interpretation given
that the tomb was
designed
for
only
two bodies.'5 Anderson,
following
one of
Prayon's original suggestions,
further
interprets
the
seated statues as
representations
of ancestors of the
family.'6
Thus, a
gesture
of
welcoming
and
accep-
tance is
logical, given
the interactive
iconography
of
the room. The ancestors welcome the
newly
de-
ceased to the
banquet
and, as Anderson
points
out,
the
newly
deceased then become elevated to the
honorific status of ancestors
themselves."l
The Mon-
tescudaio
urn and the stele from Fiesole
may
be
interpreted
in the same
way.
On the
stele,
the
figure
on the
right
side welcomes the one to the
left, while
the scar across the table from the seated
banqueter
on the
Montescudaio
urn could have been the
posi-
tion for a
cylindrical
throne for a second
banqueter.
Such an
emphasis
on
family
and
ancestry
would
be in
keeping
with other
funerary representations
of both
couples
and
families.'
The inclusion of
women in seated
banquet
motifs,
specifically
that of
the Tomb of the Five
Chairs,
could therefore be re-
lated to the
importance
of
accentuating aspects
of
the aristocratic
family
and also serve as a
precedent
for the inclusion of women in
reclining banquet
scenes as well.
In his
attempt
to date
stylistically
the statues from
the Tomb of the Five
Chairs,
Prayon
links them to
the carved
figures
found in the Tomb of the Statues
from Ceri, near
Cerveteri.'9
These statues were
placed
in the anteroom of a two-chambered rock-
carved tomb and
roughly depict
enthroned
figures
13
Anderson
(supra
n.
3)
13.
14
Micali (supra n.
12) pl. XX.5, 7, and 9.
15
Anderson
(supra
n.
3)
49.
16
Anderson
(supra
n.
3) 49; E
Prayon,
"Zum ur-
sprtinglichen
Aussehen und
Deutung
des Kultraumes in
der Tomba delle
Cinque
Sedie bei
Cerveteri,"
MarbWPr
1974, 13,
suggests
that the
pose
of the statues was in-
tended to receive
offerings.
The occurrence of the same
gesture
of the
figures
on the
Montescudaio urn and stele
from Fiesole
may, however,
suggest
a further
significance.
17 Anderson
(supra
n.
3)
49.
18 L.
Bonfante, "Etruscan
Couples
and Their Aristo-
cratic
Societies,"
in H.
Foley
ed.,
Reflections of
Women in
Antiquity (New
York
1981)
323-42.
19
Prayon (supra
n.
5)
172-75.
1994]
VILLANOVAN RITUAL AND ETRUSCAN ICONOGRAPHY 621
Fig.
6. Tomb of the Statues at Ceri. Reconstruction of statues.
(After
G.
Colonna and
EW.
von
Hase, StEtr 52
[1986] fig. 11)
(fig. 6).
The
schematically
rendered
figures
are con-
sidered
by
Colonna and von Hase to be a few dec-
ades earlier than the statues from the Tomb of the
Five
Chairs.20
Although
the statues from Ceri are
not well
preserved,
both wear
garments
similar to
those of the statues from the Tomb of the Five
Chairs,
which cover the left arm so that
only
the
hand
protrudes.
On both
figures,
the
right
arm is
free from the
garment
and holds an
object,
but
only
one
is well
enough preserved
to be identified as a
scepter topped
with a lotus
palmette.
Colonna and
von Hase have
conclusively
shown that these
figures
are
directly paralleled by renderings
of enthroned
figures
from Asia
Minor.21
One
example
from
Alalach of
King
Idri-Mi
depicts
the
figure wearing
a
garment
in the same fashion as the
figures
from
Ceri and the Tomb of the Five Chairs.22 Three ex-
amples
of
ivory plaques
from Nimrud show similar
enthroned
figures
with
scepters
or staffs
topped
with lotus
palmettes.23 One
of these
plaques depicts
an enthroned woman.
The occurrence in an
early seventh-century
tomb
of two statues that so
clearly copy
Near Eastern
pro-
totypes
led Colonna and von Hase to
suggest
two
possibilities
for their
production.24
Either
they
are
the work of a Near Eastern
immigrant
artisan work-
ing
in the area of
Cerveteri,
or the statues are the
work of Etruscan carvers familiar with the model
from Near Eastern
imports
in the form of small
statuary
or
ivory carving.
While the Ceri statues are
clearly
derived from Near Eastern models of en-
throned
figures,
however, the
question
remains of
their
relationship
to the
depiction
of seated
figures
at
banquet
in Etruscan contexts.
The
representation
of the
garments
worn
by
the
three
surviving figures
from the Tomb of the Five
Chairs and the Ceri statues is similar
enough
to
sug-
gest
that
they
are
loosely
based on the same model.
The
gesture
of the extended
right
arm with
up-
turned
palm,
however,
also seen on the Montes-
cudaio urn and the stele from
Fiesole,
may
indicate
that,
while the model for
depicting
enthroned
figures
stems from Near Eastern
prototypes,
it has
been
manipulated
to
convey
a
specifically
Etruscan
idea within a
specifically
Etruscan
iconography.
It
may
even be
argued
that the Tomb of the Stat-
ues itself serves as a sort of
precedent
for this kind
of
manipulation.
While the statues themselves are
derived from
foreign
models,
both Colonna and
Anderson
plausibly interpret
them as ancestor
figures
based on
comparisons
with later Etruscan
tombs.25 Indeed,
their
interpretation by
both the an-
cient and modern viewer is defined
by
their
purely
Etruscan context.
Thus,
we do not have the
simple
copying
of an
image,
but the
adoption
of a model
because it
adequately expresses
an Etruscan idea
not
implicit
in the
original prototype.
20
G. Colonna and
EW.
von
Hase, "Alle
origini
della
statuaria etrusca: la tomba della statue
presso Ceri," StEtr
52
(1986)
29.
21 Colonna and von Hase
(supra
n.
20)
41-48.
22 Colonna and von Hase
(supra
n.
20) pl.
XVIIa.
23 Colonna and von Hase
(supra
n.
20) pl. XVIIIa-c.
24 Colonna and von Hase
(supra
n.
20)
47-48.
25 Colonna and von Hase
(supra
n.
20) 35-41; Ander-
son
(supra
n.
3)
44-45.
622
ANTHONY S. TUCK
[AJA
98
Fig.
7. Tomb
group
from
Poggio
alla Sala,
Chiusi.
(After
D. Randall-MacIver,
Villanovans and
Early
Etruscans [Ox-
ford
1924] pl.
45)
The
iconography
of the
funerary banquet
is more
clearly
defined
by
the
examples
of
funerary
seated
banquets
from the area around Chiusi. In several
examples,
the bronze ossuaries were
placed
on
thrones or chairs and situated in front of tables with
all of the
equipment placed
inside a
large
dolio or
ziro
(fig. 7).26
Bronze and ceramic vessels
usually
completed
the
banquet
service.
Although
these
burials are dated to the end of the seventh
century,
they
do not utilize the Chiusine cremation urn form
standard for that
period,
the
canopic
urn. Instead,
the urn is either biconical,
or another
typologically
Villanovan form.27
The characterization
of the urn is clear;
not
only
does the urn
represent
the deceased,
but the rest of
the
funerary arrangement
characterizes
the de-
ceased at a
banquet.
In these Chiusine
examples,
the actual
physical
remains of the dead
person
are
enthroned and
present
at the meal. This
suggests
that illustrations of seated
banqueters
from funer-
ary
contexts should also be understood as
repre-
senting figures banqueting
in death and not as ide-
alized
representations
of
figures banqueting
as
they
may
have in
daily
life.
In recent studies
examining
the diffusion of ban-
quet practices
and motifs from the East into Etruria,
the role of the Homeric
epics
has been
emphasized
as the medium of cultural communication.28
Ac-
cording
to
Rathje,
the
practice
of
banqueting
in aris-
tocratic
society
was
adopted
as a
way
of
emulating
the heroic aristocrats described in the Iliad and the
Odyssey
with
representations
of seated
banquets
reflecting
this cultural
adoption.
This view has re-
cently
been
challenged,
however,
specifically
with
regard
to the Ficana
banquet
service.29 It
is not my
intention to enter into a discussion of the social
practice
of the
banquet,
but rather to examine the
use of
banquet imagery
in
funerary
contexts.
26
Examples
include the Tomba del Trono: R. Bianchi
Bandinelli, Clusium (MonAnt
30, 1925)
362-63,
points
out
that
O.
Montelius,
La civilisation primitive
en Italie
2
(Stock-
holm 1910)
964
incorrectly
combines material from the
Tomba del Trono and a second ziro burial from Dolciano,
Tomba a Ziro 1,
which
according
to I. Str0m,
"Oriental
Bronze Reliefs from Chiusi,"
AnalRom 17-18
(1989)
13,
is
now lost.
Apparently,
D.
Randall-MacIver,
Villanovans and
Early
Etruscans
(Oxford 1924) 241,
follows Montelius's er-
ror because he makes no mention of this second burial.
Difficulty
also surrounds the Tomba di
Poggio
alla Sala. In
Montelius's
drawing
of the
group (pl.
218),
the
ossuary
is
missing
its rim and the table has curved
"S" shaped legs.
In
Randall-MacIver's photograph
of the
group,
however,
the urn's rim is
preserved
and the table
clearly
has
straight
legs (fig. 45).
I would
tentatively suggest
that Montelius
has
mistakenly
drawn the table and
ossuary
from the lost
Tomba a Ziro 1 in his illustration of the
Poggio
alla Sala
burial. The
Vigna
Grande burial
group
is also
problem-
atic. This
group
consists of a bronze throne, table,
and
biconical urn. The chair and urn of the
group,
now in
Copenhagen,
differ somewhat from the
drawings
made
prior
to the museum's
purchase
of the artifacts. Strom
hints that this authentic chair and table
may actually
be
associated with a bronze biconical urn now in Florence.
This urn,
which is authentic,
was
originally thought
to be
associated with a bronze throne and table that are now in
Philadelphia, published by
E. Hall-Dohan,
"A
Ziro
Burial
from Chiusi,"
AJA
39
(1935)
198-209,
but
generally
ac-
cepted
to be
forgeries.
It should also be noted that,
accord-
ing
to
Randall-MacIver
(supra)
241,
at least 20 other ziro
burials were found within 200 m
of the Dolciano burials.
Unfortunately,
all had been looted. Therefore,
it seems
likely
that the number of seated
banquet
burial
groups
was
originally
much
larger.
27 Cf. the Poggio
alla Sala urn to the round-bodied am-
phora
from the Monterozzi Tomba del Guerriero,
H.
Hencken, Tarquinia,
Villanovans and
Early
Etruscans
1
(Cambridge
1968)
204
fig.
c.
28 Rathje (supra
n.
10)
279-88;
A.
Rathje,
"A
Banquet
Service from the Latin
City
of Ficana,"
AnalRom 6-7
(1983)
7-29; Rathje,
"Manners and Customs in Central
Italy in
the
Orientalizing
Period: Influence from the Near East,"
Acta
Hyperborea
1
(1988)
81-90.
29
R.R. Holloway,
The
Archaeology of Early
Rome and La-
tium
(London 1994)
191-92,
n. 3.
1994] VILLANOVAN
RITUAL AND ETRUSCAN ICONOGRAPHY 623
-0050
;
i
.iii: .
i
, :
..... .. . .
.........
..
oil
AM
-VA
fs
"#
!.
Fig.
8.
Tarquinia,
Selciatello
Sopra cemetery, grave
186.
(After
H.
Hencken,
Tarquinia,
Villanovans
and
Early
Etruscans
1 [Cambridge 1968] fig.
135,
courtesy
American School of Prehistoric
Research)
The influence of the ritual and social
practices
of
the Iron
Age
Villanovan
period upon
these Orien-
talizing
Etruscan
representations
of seated
banquets
has hitherto been
ignored.
While it is
possible
that
foreign
models were used to
express
the idea of the
funerary banquet
as it is seen in the seated
banquet
representations,
these models were
adopted
and
manipulated
because
they
could be used to
express
a
concept already represented
in
many
Villanovan-
period
tomb
groups.
The most common
type
of Villanovan burial urn
is the biconical
ossuary.
These ossuaries are
usually
handmade
impasto
and
frequently
decorated with
incised and
impressed geometric
schemes.
They
typically
have one horizontal handle attached to the
lower
belly.
In cases where the urn is made and fired
with two
handles,
one is almost
always
broken off
prior
to the burial. The cremated remains of the
deceased were
placed
in the urn and the vessel was
covered with a ceramic bowl. Less
frequently,
the
urn was covered with a ceramic or bronze helmet
(fig. 8).
Biconical urn burials are not the
only
burial form
found in Etruria
during
the Villanovan
period.
Cre-
mation burials
employing
urns in the
shape
of huts
are also
found,
but these are far less common than
biconical urns. Hut urns are more
typical
of the
early
Iron
Age
Latin burial ritual than that of
Etruria.30 In addition to
cremation,
inhumation was
also
practiced
at some sites
alongside
cremation
by
the Villanovan
II
period.3'
In most
regions,
inhu-
mation
eventually
became the standard
practice by
the end of the Villanovan
period.
The area around
Chiusi is a
noteworthy exception, employing
the
rite of cremation well into the Archaic
period.32
The
biconical urn
burials, however,
are the most com-
mon as well as the most
characteristically
"Villano-
van" of the
Villanovan-period
burial forms in
Etruria.
In the
region
of Chiusi
during
the
Orientalizing
and Archaic
periods,
cremated remains of the de-
ceased were
typically placed
in a
"canopic"
urn,
so
called because these urns often had
plastically
ren-
dered arms and were covered with lids
shaped
like
heads.
According
to
Gempeler,
this
type
of anthro-
pomorphization
of burial urns is also evident in Vil-
lanovan tombs such as the
Tarquinia Impiccato
II
burial,
in which the urn was covered with a helmet.33
30
Hencken
(supra
n.
27)
vol.
2, 462-64.
31
Hencken
(supra
n.
27)
vol.
2,
640.
32
R.
Gempeler,
Die etruskischen
Kanopen. Herstellung, Ty-
pologie, Entwicklungsgeschichte (Einsiedeln 1974)
251.
3 Gempeler (supra
n.
32)
250.
624 ANTHONY S. TUCK
[AJA
98
Fig.
9.
Tarquinia, Impiccato cemetery, grave
II.
Helmet
with
stylized
face,
front and back.
(After
H.
Hencken,
Tarquinia,
Villanovans and
Early
Etruscans
1
[Cambridge
1968] fig.
159,
courtesy
American School of Prehistoric
Research)
The helmet was decorated with a
highly stylized
face
(fig. 9).
According
to Hencken's
chronology,
this
grave
falls in the Villanovan
IIB
stage,
or ca. 750
B.C.34
Other
examples
of biconical urns with
cepha-
lomorphic
covers,
such as those from Saturnia and
Vulci,
discussed
below,
also indicate a
conceptual
link between the deceased and the burial urn al-
ready
in existence in the Villanovan
period.35
In the
Impiccato
II burial,
a
cap
helmet functions
as the
cover,
but also
apparently anthropomor-
phizes
the urn
containing
the deceased in a fashion
similar to that seen in the Chiusine
canopic
burials.
The
examples
of bronze and ceramic helmets cov-
ering
urns
suggest
that we are to understand this
covering
as
symbolizing
the head of the
deceased,
since the bronze helmets themselves are worn on
the head and the ceramic imitations
obviously rep-
resent the same idea in a less
expensive
medium.36
Interestingly,
some
examples
from the Cerveteri
Sorbo
cemetery appear
to
represent
leather hats
rather than metal helmets,
suggesting
that
any
ele-
ment worn on the head would be suitable to
symbol-
ize it." Furthermore, since the
majority
of helmets
or hats used to cover urns are
ceramic, it seems
likely
that
they
were
produced specifically
for the
funerary
ritual.
Most biconical urn burials are not covered with
bronze or ceramic helmets, however, but rather an
inverted bowl. Like the burial
urns,
these cover
bowls are
typologically
consistent and similar
throughout
the Villanovan
period. They
are
typi-
cally open
vessels with a
single
handle with base
forms
varying
from flat to
pedestal.
Admittedly,
it is more difficult to
interpret
these
cover bowls as
representations
of the head of the
deceased. Biconical urns from Saturnia and Vulci
have been linked to the Chiusine
practice
of anthro-
pomorphization,
however, and are covered with
bowls
very
similar to the standard bowl form,
except
that
they
have a round, ball-like
projection
at the
base
(fig. 10).38
Possibly,
the
examples
from Saturnia
and Vulci
represent
the
development
of an idea in-
herent in the
coverings
for the biconical
burials, that
the
cover, whether a helmet or
bowl,
symbolizes
the
head of the deceased.
If we
accept
this
premise,
then it is further
plau-
sible that the urn is intended to
represent
the
body.
One dramatic
example
of this is mentioned
by
Ran-
dall-MacIver. A biconical urn was found in an ex-
cavation in Florence that was in
every way
like
other biconical urns,
except
for the fact that it was
half the usual size.39 The diminutive size of the
urn,
according
to
Randall-MacIver,
was
explained by
the
fact that the teeth of a child were found inside
among
the cremated
remains.40 Therefore, it would
seem that in this
example
the small size of the urn
was related to the small size of the
person
it con-
tained.
34
Hencken
(supra
n.
27)
172.
35 Gempeler (supra
n.
32)
250.
36 Numerous
examples
of bronze
figurines wearing
Villanovan crested helmets indicate that these urn covers
were helmets or intended to
represent
helmets. For exam-
ples
of helmeted human
figures,
see H.
Hencken,
"Horse
Tripods
in
Etruria,"
AJA
61
(1957) 1-4,
figs. 1, 6-7;
and
E.H.
Richardson,
The Etruscans
(Chicago 1976) fig.
VI.
37 I. Pohl,
The Iron
Age Necropolis of
Sorbo at Cerveteri
(Stockholm 1972)
111-12.
Pohl
sees the
upper portion
of
these urn covers as blends of the Latian tradition of urn
covers
imitating
the roofs of
huts,
on the one
hand,
and
helmeted
burials,
on the other. This
blending
of traditions
is also seen on
examples
from Vulci and
may
be an infre-
quent
southern Etrurian
phenomenon.
38 For Saturnia: see L.
Donati,
"Un nuovo
tipo
di
cop-
erchio
antropoide
a
Saturnia,"
in
M.G.
Marzi
Costagli
and
L.
Tamagno
Perno eds., Studi di
antichitat
in onore di
Guglielmo
Maetzke 2
(Rome 1984) 273-79;
and L.
Donati,
Le tombe da Saturnia
(Florence 1989)
38-39. For Vulci see
E.
Hall-Dohan,
Italic Tomb
Groups
in the
University
Museum
of Philadelphia (Philadelphia 1942)
81 nos. 3-4. Another
similar
example
is now in the Villa Giulia: A.M.
Fugazzola
Delpino,
La cultura villanoviana
(Rome 1984)
73-74.
Fugazzola Delpino suggests
that this
piece
is from Vulci
and there can be little doubt that it functioned in the same
manner as the other
examples
cited.
"
Randall-MacIver (supra
n.
26)
67.
40
Randall-MacIver (supra
n.
26)
67.
1994]
VILLANOVAN RITUAL AND ETRUSCAN ICONOGRAPHY 625
Fig.
10. Biconical urn
from
Saturnia.
(After
L.
Donati,
Le
Tombe da Saturnia
[Florence 1989] fig. 10)
Another
example
of this
phenomenon
is illus-
trated
by
an urn from
Vulci,
now in the Villa Giulia.
This
urn,
like the
example
from
Florence,
is smaller
than most biconical urns and covered with a helmet-
like element.
Oddly,
the knob of this cover is similar
to the
top
of a hut
urn,
and resembles those men-
tioned
previously
from Cerveteri.
Fugazzola
Delpino
theorizes that the size of the urn indicates
that it was used for the interment of a child.41
According
to
Bartoloni,
the
customary
burial
practice
for infants at this time was inhumation in
amphoras.42 Ridgway
has noted a similar treatment
of infant burials at Pithekoussai. He
suggests
that
infants,
not
yet regarded
as full members of their
community,
were inhumed without strict obser-
vance of collective ritual and that such occasions
were
private
matters.43 The few
examples
of mini-
aturized biconical ossuaries were
possibly
children
of
socially prominent parents,
thus
explaining
the
different treatment of the child in the
funerary
rit-
ual. If this were the case, however, we would
expect
to find more
examples
of such miniaturized urns.
Until a similar urn is found in a secure context and
the
physical
remains can be
analyzed,
such urns will
remain
enigmatic.
Another element of this
possible
characterization
of the urn as a human
body
comes from
Tarquinia,
the "Dolio with a Girdle with a Turtle" from the
Monterozzi
cemetery. According
to Hencken's de-
scription
of this
grave,
a bronze
girdle
was found
attached to the bronze
ossuary.44
Bonfante
is of the
opinion
that these
"girdles"
were worn
by
individu-
als as decorative
belts.45
If this
supposition
is
correct,
then the
presence
of the
girdle
attached to the urn
in the "Dolio with a Girdle with a Turtle"
suggests
that the urn was "dressed" in a manner like the
fashion of the
day.
This
possible dressing
of the urn
strongly implies
that it was intended to
symbolize
the
body
of the deceased.
Furthermore,
Bonfante
indicates that
wrapping
an
image
in cloth was a sim-
ple way
of
expressing
the idea of a
garment.46
It
is
therefore
significant
that the urn from
Tarquinia,
"Dolio with a Bronze
Amphora
and Bronze Pecto-
ral,"
was
wrapped
in a brown
cloth.47
Furthermore,
it is
interesting
to note Schweitzer's
comments about the
significant
debt owed to textile
motifs in the
development
of Geometric decoration
on Greek Iron
Age pottery. According
to
Schweitzer,
most of the decorative motifs of the
style
are best
explained
as
stemming
from textile work. He states
that
"surely
the character of the abstract surface
style
of decoration used in
Early
Geometric,
cling-
ing
more and more to the tectonic structure of the
vessel,
like a
garment,
is best
explained
as
being
associated
with a
flourishing
textile
industry."48
A reconstruction of a
sixth-century
B.C.
garment
from southwest
Germany
is decorated with woven
motifs, the swastika and meander, both strikingly
similar to the incised decoration common on
many
41 Fugazzola Delpino (supra
n.
38)
75-76.
42
G.
Bartoloni,
La cultura villanoviana: all'inizio della sto-
ria etrusca
(Rome 1989)
31.
43
Ridgway (supra
n.
1)
52.
44 Hencken
(supra
n.
27)
192.
45
Bonfante
(supra
n.
7)
22-23.
46
Bonfante
(supra
n.
7)
106.
47 Hencken
(supra
n.
27)
198.
48 B.
Schweitzer,
Greek Geometric Art
(London 1971)
30.
626 ANTHONY S. TUCK
[AJA
98
Villanovan biconical urns.49 Barber has
argued
that
the
similarity
of
many
Etruscan and Hallstatt woven
motifs
may
be due to similar
weaving practices.50
Thus,
if we are correct in
seeing
biconical urns as
representing
the
deceased,
then it is
interesting
that
so
many
are decorated with incised
geometric pat-
terns similar to woven motifs.
Although
most Vil-
lanovan-period
ceramics are decorated with such
designs, perhaps upon
a humanoid urn the incision
was intended to
represent
a
garment.
Two further
examples
from Vulci are also reveal-
ing.
On one
example
of an otherwise
ordinary
bi-
conical
urn,
two raised knobs have been
placed
on
the
upper portion
of the
vessel,
perhaps indicating
breasts.5' From the
Cavalupo necropolis,
we have an
example
of a biconical urn adorned with a bronze
necklace and
pendant, hung
around the neck of the
vessel.52
As mentioned
above,
one unusual characteristic
of the vast
majority
of biconical urn burials is the
single
handle.
Usually,
the handle is
horizontal,
but
a few
examples
of urns exist with
single
vertical han-
dles. In several instances,
the urn is fired with two
handles,
but one is broken off before the funeral
deposition.
The
consistency
of this
phenomenon
suggests
a ritual
purpose
to either the
production
of
the urn with a
single
handle or to the
breaking
off
of one of the handles. If we are correct in
viewing
the urn and the cover as
symbolic representations
of
the
deceased,
then it is
possible
that
breaking
off
one handle
may
have served
ritually
to disable or
cripple
the
urn,
or
perhaps
to lend a sense of
finality
to the
deposition.
The cases of urns
produced
with
one handle
may
reflect a belief that
producing
the
urn with one handle served the same function as
breaking
one handle off before the burial
deposi-
tion. This
practice,
however,
remains
enigmatic.
In the
majority
of
examples,
the burial urn and
cover are not the
only
ceramics found in these buri-
als.
Drinking cups,
libation
bowls,
jugs,
double-
bodied
cups,
askoi,
ceramic
stands,
plates,
and small
urns are all
commonly
associated with these burials.
Unlike
imported pottery,
there is no reason to as-
sume that these
locally produced
forms were
highly
valued
intrinsically
or that
they represent prestige
goods.
Therefore,
it is reasonable to
argue
that these
ceramics were included in the burials because of
some role
they played
in the ritual of the interment.
Examples
of such
funerary assemblages
are
found at several
sites,
such as tombs
284, 299,
and
321 from the Sorbo
cemetery,53
tombs
25, 51,
and 66
from
Vulci,54
tombs 31 and 37 from the
necropolis
of Scuole Medie di
Castenaso,55
several
groups
from
Veii,56
as well as numerous
examples
from Tar-
quinia.
While a
large
number of these biconical urn
burials do contain
secondary
ceramics of this na-
ture,
it must be
pointed
out that not all do. Some
examples
contain
only
the urn and
cover,
while
some also include fibulae or other metal items with
the urn. A
large majority
of biconical urn burials
contain
secondary
ceramics, however,
most of which
tend to be similar in form from tomb to tomb.
Although assigning specific
functions to vessel
types
can be
problematic,
it seems that these ceramic
types
can be
generally
characterized as
pertaining
to
the
serving
and
consumption
of food and
drink,
especially
the
jugs, cups,
and
plates.57
Ceramic tomb
groups consisting
of the biconical
urn, cover,
and
secondary
ceramics
relating
to food
consumption
are found
consistently throughout
the
chronologi-
cal series of Villanovan burials at several sites.58
The inclusion of
pottery
in burials is a common
aspect
of funeral customs all over the world. These
Villanovan burials are
distinctive, however,
in that
49
E.J.W.
Barber,
Prehistoric Textiles: The
Development of
Cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze
Ages (Princeton 1991)
189.
50
Barber
(supra
n.
49)
194.
51
E Delpino, "Elementi
antropomorfi
in corredi vil-
lanoviani,"
in L. Olschki
ed.,
La civilta arcaica di Vulci e la
sua
espansione (Florence 1977) 177,
argues
that several of
the
examples
cited
above,
especially
the urn covers with
rounded
projections
from Saturnia and
Vulci,
are
"pre-
canopic"
in their
attempts
to "humanize" the
cinerary
urn. While I
fully agree
with this
analysis,
I would
suggest
that his
examples
and the others cited above indicate that
such
anthropomorphic
tendencies are
developments
of
the
coherent,
preexisting
theme that the biconical
ossuary
and cover
was,
by
itself, intended to
symbolize
the de-
ceased.
52 E
Roncalli,
"Earte,"
in G.P Carratelli
ed., Rasenna,
Storia e civiltd
degli Etruschi (Milan 1986) 547,
figs.
452-53.
51
Pohl
(supra
n.
37) 77-82,
177.
54 Hall-Dohan
(supra
n.
38)
81-88.
55
E.
Silvestri,
in La
necropoli
villanoviana di Ca' dell'Orbo
(Bologna 1979) 80-82,
84-87.
56
J.
Palm,
"Veiian Tomb
Groups
in the Museo Prehis-
torico, Rome,"
OpArch
7
(1952)
70-71.
57
For a breakdown of the
typology
of ceramic forms
found at
Tarquinia,
see Hencken
(supra
n.
27) suppl.
charts 2-6.
58 E.g.,
Hencken
(supra
n.
27)
35. Selciatello
grave
8
contained a biconical
urn,
cover bowl,
drinking cup,
two
jugs,
a ceramic "boat"
(which
Hencken
suggests
is a
lamp
but could also be a shallow
pitcher),
and ceramic stand.
The last of these
types
seems to be connected
specifically
to
eating
in later Etruscan contexts. This
grave
is
placed
by
Hencken in the Villanovan IA
period,
therefore one of
the earliest in his
chronological
series at
Tarquinia.
19941]
VILLANOVAN RITUAL AND ETRUSCAN ICONOGRAPHY
627
the cremation urn was
apparently
intended to
sym-
bolize the dead
person
it contained. These human-
oid ceramic
representations
were also surrounded
by
other ceramics that
pertain
to the
consumption
of food and drink. The
representation
of the de-
ceased surrounded
by dining equipment
thus
sug-
gests
that the dead were intended to be shown at a
meal.
Therefore,
it seems that the idea of the deceased
at a
funerary
meal,
although represented
differ-
ently,
is similar in both its Villanovan and Oriental-
izing-period
manifestations.
Moreover,
several ele-
ments of the later Etruscan seated
banquet funerary
iconography
reflect Villanovan influence. For ex-
ample,
the Montescudaio urn is itself biconical.
Hencken also
points
out that the table on the lid is
a
tripod,
similar to several
examples
of
tripods
found in
earlier,
Villanovan burials from Tar-
quinia.59
The urns used in the Chiusine seated ban-
quet
burials are either biconical or are
typologically
consistent with Villanovan forms.
According
to
Zuffa,
the
type
lA chair60 that is associated with the
Dolciano Tomb of the Throne burial has Villanovan
parallels
as
well.61 Finally,
the urn in the
Poggio
alla
Sala burial was
wrapped
in a
cloth,
a
practice
that,
as mentioned
above,
also occurs in the Villanovan
period.62
This
interpretation
of
banquet imagery
in nu-
merous Villanovan tomb
groups perhaps
offers an
insight
into an anomalous
aspect
of
many
later
Etruscan
reclining banquet
scenes,
the
participation
of women
reclining
with men. As
many
scholars
have
observed,
the
symposium
of Archaic Greek so-
ciety
was an
aspect
of social and
political
life domi-
nated
by
men. When women are
depicted,
the
scenes are either fanciful or the women are rele-
gated
to roles such as flute
girl
or
prostitute.63
The
contrast with
many
Etruscan scenes of couples re-
clining at a
banquet,
without
any
indication that the
women are of inferior status, is
striking.
As Bonfante has
persuasively argued,
the aristo-
cratic
political
structure of Etruscan
city
states
helps
to
explain
this treatment of women in Etruscan
art.64 An artistic
emphasis
on husband and wife as
well as mother and child is
logical
in an aristocratic
society, given
the
political
need to focus on
aspects
of the
family,
its
stability,
and its
perpetuation. This
emphasis
is
especially
evident in
funerary iconog-
raphy,
when the
stability
of the
family
is most at risk
with the death of one of its members.
It is also
possible,
however, that the
repre-
sentation of
banquet imagery
in so
many Villano-
van-period
tombs reveals another stimulus for the
inclusion of women in later Etruscan
banquet
scenes, both seated and
reclining.
While it is
always
problematic
to
rely solely
on
objects deposited
in the
grave
to determine the sex of the
individual, the
state of the cremated remains of
many
Villanovan
tombs leaves few alternatives.
For
example,
if we are correct in
assuming
the
bronze belts found in some Villanovan
II graves
were worn
by
women, as Bonfante
suggests,65
then
their inclusion in a tomb
strongly encourages
us to
assume that we are
dealing
with the burial of a
woman. In a
grave
such as the "Dolio with the Gir-
dle with a Turtle," where a belt was attached to the
urn and the
grave
also included
eating equipment,
the idea of a
funerary
meal is
expressed.
This im-
plies,
or at least
strongly suggests,
the same
concep-
tualization of the afterlife for both men and women
in these Villanovan
tombs, which
perhaps
finds new
expression
in later
banquet
scenes such as the Tomb
of the Five Chairs and in later
Archaic-period
reclin-
ing banquet
scenes of a
funerary
nature.66
59
Hencken
(supra
n.
27)
vol.
2,
586.
60
This
designation refers to the furniture
typology
es-
tablished
by
S.
Steingriber,
Etruskische
Mibel (Rome 1979)
7-57.
61 M.
Zuffa, "Trono miniaturistico da
Verrucchio,"
in
G.
Camporeale ed., Studi in onore di Luisa Banti
(Rome
1965)
351-55.
62
Cf.
Bianchi Bandinelli
(supra
n.
26) 396,
Poggio
alla
Sala;
and Hencken
(supra
n.
27) 198, "Dolio with a Bronze
Amphora
and Bronze Pectoral."
6" 0. Murray, Mary
Flexner Lecture
Series,
Bryn
Mawr
College,
1992
(publication forthcoming).
64
Bonfante
(supra
n.
18)
323-42.
65
Bonfante
(supra
n.
7)
23 states that bronze belts of
this
type
were
usually
found in the
graves
of women and
are
clearly
worn
by
women in later
figured
scenes from
the more conservative
regions
to the north of Etruria
proper.
66
De Marinis
(supra
n.
2)
116-17 sees a
tripartite
divi-
sion into the artistic
regions
of
Chiusi, Fiesole,
and Tar-
quinia
of
Archaic-period representations
of
reclining
banquet
scenes. Women are
only represented reclining
with men in those
representations
from the artistic orbit
of
Tarquinia. J.P Small,
"The
Banquet
Frieze from
Poggio
Civitate," StEtr 39
(1971) 60, however, has
suggested
that
women are
depicted
on the
banquet
frieze
plaques
from
Murlo, which are the earliest certain
surviving repre-
sentations of a
reclining banquet
in Etruscan art and
gen-
erally thought
to fall under the artistic influence of Chiusi.
The Murlo friezes are
non-funerary
and therefore ancil-
lary
to the
question
at
hand, but it is
interesting
that Etrus-
can
reclining banquet
scenes show this
tendency
from a
very early point.
628 A.S.
TUCK,
VILLANOVAN RITUAL AND ETRUSCAN ICONOGRAPHY
In
conclusion,
it seems that the
representation
of
the seated
banquet
in the
Orientalizing period
has
conceptual
roots in the burial
practices
of the
Vil-
lanovan
period.
Within the
rapidly changing sphere
of
Orientalizing
Etruria,
the
adoption
and
develop-
ment of the motif of the seated
figure
was used
to
express
a
preexisting
idea of the deceased at a fu-
nerary
meal. The
widespread
thematic
expression
of the dead at a meal in Villanovan contexts
helps
to
explain
the
pervasive
use of the
iconography
of the
funerary banquet
in tombs
throughout
Etruria
from the Archaic
period
onward.
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