ORIGINS OF THE ETRUSCANS
- The question of the origins of the Etruscans has traditionally been posed as a contrast between an indigenous or autochthonous origin (supported by Dionysius of Halicarnassus) against an exotic origin (supported by Herodotus and other ancient authors). This is a study much developed by the traditional Etruscologist, a study that may greatly simplify the issues by suggesting one unidirectional thread of development, when many cultural exchanges (see postcolonial theory), many regional patterns, and even many biological communities may have been involved. The continuity of a large number of major cities from the Final Bronze Age demonstrates the in situ development of most Etruscan communities. Equally, funerary customs show some considerable continuity, particularly in northern cities such as Chiusi and in the theme of the house of the dead. The excavation of the northern settlement of Murlo has equally uncovered strong evidence of local artistic creativity. Against this, the interaction with the Greek and Phoenician world is clear, leading to the development of shared ideas of a material culture that is not unidirectional, since Attic pottery includes forms that were first developed in Etruria.A further key problem is that of language, which remains distinct from that of other contemporary Italic communities. This gives rise to several potential interpretations. The two extremes relate to the two extreme interpretations of the origins of the Etruscans. The first considers the Etruscan language to be a pre-Neolithic substratum that survived in the geographically circumscribed area of western central Italy. The second considers the Etruscan language to be an import with incoming populations from the eastern Mediterranean. Evidence from settlement archaeology and material culture suggests that the Etruscans were local populations that developed in interaction with the rest of the Mediterranean. No completely satisfactory fusion of this perspective has yet been made with the linguistic evidence, but an important criterion may be that the evidence for language through inscriptions is drawn from a restricted population whose mobility may have been easier. A related question is the date when the Etruscans can be first identified, which is ultimately a definitional problem related to state formation, and to issues of self-identification of the Etruscans as Rasenna. The biological makeup and genetics of the Etruscans form another thread of research that may or may not relate to their cultural makeup, since biological groups can take on new customs of language and cultural practice.
Historical Dictionary of the Etruscans. Simon K. F. Stoddart.
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