Contact: Melanie O’Brien (214) 768-7659
mzobrien@smu.edu

Jan. 5, 2004

UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN: GOLD DISCOVERY TELLS THE STORY OF A LOST CIVILIZATION

DALLAS (SMU) - The recent discovery of 2,000-year-old pendant necklaces, golden hair ornaments, rings and semi-precious stones, and silver coins are bringing to life a largely forgotten people who, among other things, built the first cities in Italy and introduced Greek culture to the Romans.

In the Italian foothills near Florence, archaeologists from Southern Methodist University, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and Franklin and Marshall College have uncovered gold artifacts from an ancient Etruscan city. The Etruscan civilization thrived for hundreds of years during the first millennium B.C., before being assimilated by the Romans.

Not a lot is known about the Etruscans because researchers have found only scattered ruins; however, the site at Poggio Colla is the most extensive settlement that is archaeologically accessible today, spanning over 50 acres and revealing a wealth of details of ordinary Etruscan life. Greg Warden, SMU archaeologist and co-director of the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project, which oversees the excavation, says the gold discovery is significant because the riches were not buried in tombs.

“ The discovery of these gold objects in this ordinary setting is unprecedented in Etruscan archaeology,” Warden said. “Poggio Colla is a complex site. We’ve only dug one very small part, and we anticipate more exciting finds to come.”

Warden believes that the gold found at the top of a hill overlooking the settlement was probably used for religious ceremonies. Like many ancient cultures, the Etruscans were obsessed with symbols and rituals. Most likely the gold artifacts were offerings to appease the gods, he says. The gold has been removed from the site for safekeeping and will eventually be displayed in an Italian museum.

For more information about Poggio Colla, including other expert sources for Etruscan culture and images of the site, go to smu.edu/underthetuscansun.

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