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The following are some story angles and experts relating to the Etruscan site of Poggio Colla and the potential significance of the recent gold find. For information and appointments with experts, contact the Office of News and Communications at 214-768-7650.

Gold Amid the Ruins: Why Is This Site Unique?

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 at Poggio Colla.

Greg Warden, SMU archaeologist and co-director of the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project, 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," he says. "Poggio Colla is a complex site. We’ve only dug one very small part, and we anticipate more exciting finds to come." The gold has been removed from the site for safekeeping and will eventually be displayed in an Italian museum.

Angles and experts:

  • Greg Warden, SMU professor of art history, associate dean in Meadows School of the Arts and co-director of the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project, who can discuss the site's history as well as the history, artifacts and culture of the Etruscan civilization.
  • Michael Thomas, University of Michigan, co-director of the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project, who can discuss the site's history as well as the history, artifacts and culture of the Etruscan civilization. Dr. Thomas may be contacted through SMU News and Communications.

For interviews, reporters can call SMU News and Communications at 214-768-7650.

The Etruscans: Clues to a Lost Civilization

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 ever discovered, spanning over 50 acres and revealing a wealth of details of ordinary Etruscan life.

Angles and experts:

  • Greg Warden, SMU professor of art history, associate dean in Meadows School of the Arts and co-director of the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project, who can discuss the known history, artifacts and culture of the Etruscan civilization.

For interviews, reporters can call SMU News and Communications at 214-768-7650.

Mystery Rites of a Mysterious Culture

The gold found at the top of a hill overlooking the Poggio Colla settlement probably was used for religious ceremonies. Like many ancient cultures, the Etruscans were obsessed with symbols and rituals, and evidence says they used such rites and totems to maintain their rigid caste structure (a tiny elite, a huge slave population and a small serf class). The items found at Poggio Colla, meticulously placed and capped with temple stones, most likely were chosen to persuade -- or appease -- the gods.

Melissa Dowling, SMU associate professor of history and director of the University's Classical Studies program, says that the terror and violence in Etruscan religious imagery set it apart from the ancient Greek and Roman traditions it superficially resembles. In a society in which religious belief was inseparable from civic affairs, the fear of divine judgment could become a tool for the powerful to maintain the status quo.

Angles and experts:

  • Melissa Dowling, director of SMU's Classical Studies program, who is an expert on Greco-Roman religions and symbolism.

For interviews, reporters can call SMU News and Communications at 214-768-7650.

From Childhood Playground to Historian's Paradise

Born in Italy, Greg Warden spent his boyhood playing in the valley where he would later find clues to a lost civilization. The native Florentine's major interest is the art and culture of ancient Italy, but his expertise as both an archaeologist and an art historian extends to a range of art from the ancient Mediterranean.

For interviews, reporters can call SMU News and Communications at 214-768-7650.

Etruscan Art Influences Modern Fashion

Although little is known about the Etruscan culture, their talent for metalworking still inspires artisans. So beautiful was their jewelry that it was given to appease the gods. Jewelry designer Ellen Buie Niewyk, curator of the Bywaters Special Collections in the Hamon Arts Library at Southern Methodist University, uses Etruscan techniques to craft her gold and semi-precious pieces. Using mainly ancient techniques, Niewyk alloys her own gold and melts her metals down on a primitive charcoal block.

"I am fascinated with the beautiful designs, textures and shapes one can achieve from studying ancient metal techniques and processes used by other cultures for centuries and applying them in my personal work with a contemporary twist," Niewyk says.

To view jewelry from Niewyk's collection or to arrange an interview with Niewyk, call the SMU Office of News and Communications at 214-768-7650.

Learning by Discovering: Students at the Poggio Colla Dig

Aside from its historical and cultural value, the Etruscan dig at Poggio Colla is an extraordinary teaching site attracting student participants from around the world. Read the online diaries of SMU and other students at the Poggio Colla Field School Web site.

For more information, call SMU News and Communications at 214-768-7650.