Archeologists have recently unearthed an ancient sandstone slab bearing a rare religious text belonging to the Etruscan civilization. The 2,500 year-old slab discovered at an Italian dig site could offer powerful hints about the long-gone Etruscan language, culture, and religion.
Archeology professor Ingrid Edlund-Berry of the University of Texas at Austin noted that such a lengthy text is a rare sight since Etruscans, though they were a highly educated people, had left very little evidence of their language. Edlund-Berry expressed his hopes that the inscription could provide precious details about the lost language.
“[…] any text, especially a longer one, is an exciting addition to our knowledge,”
the researcher added.
So far, archeologists have unearthed only short writings on funerary inscriptions such as dates, names, and titles. Moreover, an Etruscan religious text is also a rare finding, so archeologists now expect it to help them better understand the type of worshiping practiced by the ancient people.
The 500-pound slab was unearthed on the site of an Etruscan temple and dates back to the 6th century BC.
Gregory Warden of the Franklin University Switzerland, senior researcher running the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project, and head of the team that made the find stated that the inscription was probably a sacred text. He also said that it could hold clues to a lost culture that was essential to the development of Western traditions.
Warden noted that his team identified at least 70 characters and punctuation marks on the slab. Other scholars said that the religious text could yield new knowledge on Etruscan culture that shaped ancient Rome’s language, religion, politics, art and architecture.
The dig site is located in the Mugello Valley northeast of the city of Florence in Italy.
Warden also said that the text could help Etruscan language experts ‘make inroads’ in the lost language. He explained that the slab could contain new words since it is longer than previous texts and does not belong to a funerary context.
Experts already know how Etruscan grammar worked, but the newly found religious artifact could reveal new elements of the vocabulary such as names of god goddesses and religious practices, according to Warden.
In the meantime, researchers at the University of Florence’s architecture department were assigned to perform laser scans of the inscribed slab, which is also known as a stele, and document all its details through photogrammetry.
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