Archeologists have unearthed a stone slab in an ancient temple which contains religious text in the lost language of Etruscan.
Italian archeologists have uncovered a stone slab from the foundations of an ancient temple. The stone contains a lengthy text in Etruscan language and is probably one of the very few artifacts that unravel the details about the worship of god or goddess of the lost Etruscan civilization. These kinds of religious texts were usually inscribed on grave or funeral objects.
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“This is probably going to be a sacred text, and will be remarkable for telling us about the early belief system of a lost culture that is fundamental to western traditions.” Archeologist Gregory Warden, lead researcher from Mugello Valley Archaeological Project said.
The ancient slab is measured four feet tall and two feet wide and weighs about 500 pounds. It dates back to 6th century BCE. The sandstone slab, which remained buried inside the ancient temple for 2,500 years, provides researchers an opportunity to peek into the early scared life of the Etruscan civilization.
Etruscans once ruled Rome and influenced Romans on everything from religion to government to art to architecture. But there is very little information available about them due to the limited recovery of artifacts of that era.
The slab, also known as stele, contains at least 70 letters and punctuation marks in Etruscans language and possibly yields a wealth of information about the lost culture.
“We hope to make inroads into the Etruscan language,” said Warden. “Long inscriptions are rare, especially one this long, so there will be new words that we have never seen before, since it is not a funerary text.”
Currently, researchers are conducting full photogrammetry and laser scanning to document everything written on the slab and this process will continue for the next few months.
“Inscriptions of more than a few words, on permanent materials, are rare for the Etruscans, who tended to use perishable media like linen cloth books or wax tablets,” said Jean MacIntosh Turfa with the University of Pennsylvania Museum. “This stone stele is evidence of a permanent religious cult with monumental dedications at least as early as the Late Archaic Period, from about 525 to 480 BCE. Its re-use in the foundations of a slightly later sanctuary structure points to deep changes in the town and its social structure.”
In the past two decades, several objects related to the life to Etruscan including gold jewelry, coins, pottery and statues have been uncovered and all of these are significant in terms of understanding the Etruscan culture. Though, Etruscans were highly cultured people but almost nothing has been found preserved in written form from that civilization.
Archeologist Ingrid Edlund-Berry from University of Texas at Austin says. “So any text, especially a longer one, is an exciting addition to our knowledge.”