Footsteps of the dead : iconography of beliefs about the afterlife and evidence for funerary practices in Etruscan Tarquinia
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This thesis is a study of Etruscan attitudes to the afterlife, based on analysis of the funerary archaeology, architecture, and iconography of death from the ancient city of Tarquinia. The focus on one settlement allowed for a more precise reconstruction of funerary attitudes; it also avoided the pitfalls of approaching Etruscan civilisation as uniform and homogeneous across its varied city-states; and it made clear when particular beliefs about the afterlife changed or developed. After a general discussion of approaches to the subject in the published literature and of the specific conditions at the site of Tarquinia, it proceeds through a series of case studies chosen from each of the major periods of Etruscan civilisation from the Villanovan to the Hellenistic period. The analysis is based on published excavations and studies, supplemented by fieldwork conducted in Rome and at Tarquinia. The case studies were chosen based on the type of information that they can give about the way the underworld was imagined. No one tomb can be used to illustrate the entire set of beliefs and traditions that occurred at one time. Throughout the course of this study, I focus on the changes and developments of funerary traditions over the nine centuries of Etruscan civilisation at Tarquinia. The main finding to emerge from these studies relates to the long term stability of funerary practices at Tarquinia. As elsewhere in Etruria, there are changes in the scale and design of tombs and in the subjects and manner of their decoration. Yet it is difficult to identify any sudden discontinuities of practice. In a number of cases, it is argued that motifs that are well attested only in later periods can already be seen in the earlier material, while few themes introduced into the repertoire are ever completely lost. Rather, the same motifs are occasionally represented in different form from period to period. Whether the explanation is to be sought in the conservative influence of a small number of ruling families, or in the absence of social revolutions of the kind that characterised some Greek poleis, or in a conscious desire to preserve local, i.e. Tarquinian, traditions and styles, it seems that the history of Etruscan death is –in this case at least –not to be written in terms of dramatic changes so much as of gradual evolution and development. On this basis, a tentative account of the (local) Etruscan underworld is offered as it emerges from material drawn from all the periods studied.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy