The Classics Department and the Poggio Civitate Archaeological Excavation are co-sponsoring an exhibit this summer at the Murlo Archaeological Museum, an antiquarium in Murlo, Italy and dedicated entirely to the Poggio Civitate excavation site.
The exhibit, “First Words: The Archaeology of Language at Poggio Civitate,” was curated by associate professor Anthony Tuck, the director of excavations at Poggio Civitate, and professor Rex Wallace with the assistance of the students of excavation’s field school.
This exhibit presents materials recovered from the UMass Amherst excavation site, an aristocratic Etruscan settlement of the 8th though 6th centuries BCE. Unlike most Etruscan sites, which are known mainly through their cemeteries, Poggio Civitate preserves evidence of a range of different types of monumental architecture dating to this pivotal period in Etruscan cultural development. Over many years of excavation, a number of different types of inscribed objects have been recovered from the various buildings.
According to Wallace, the First Words exhibit presents this critical body of evidence for literacy for the first time. These fragmentary texts represent the earliest known body of evidence for literacy among the indigenous populations of Italy recovered from social rather than funerary spaces. The archeological context not only provides the essential texts, but also a deeper appreciation of the manner in which evidence from Poggio Civitate helps us understand the social, political and economic forces that drive the adaptation of literacy.
A companion catalog accompanies the exhibit. It presents images of the various inscribed objects, some of which are exquisitely wrought in ceramic and ivory, along with popularly accessible summaries of research on the objects and their inscriptions. The catalog also serves as a synopsis of the scholarly research reflected in the exhibit and will be available at the Murlo Archaeological Museum as well as through the College of Humanities and Fine Arts.
The First Words exhibit officially opened July 7 and will be on view through August.