X99Lynx at X99Lynx at
Thu Mar 22 17:23:46 UTC 2001

In a message dated 3/22/2001 3:52:39 AM, acnasvers at writes:
<< I don't know what bucchero-ware has to do with Asia Minor. Etruscans
certainly traded with Syria and Phoenicia, not just Greece; incorporation of
non-Greek elements into Etruscan artefacts is not surprising. Cretan motifs
probably came in early, through contacts with Mycenaeans. One should not
expect Etruscan culture to be a mere imitation of the Greek. >>

But I'm sure you see the assumption made in attributing influences to
Mycenaeans.  Arguably, there is nothing distinctly Etruscan at that point.
Whatever Etruscan culture received from Mycenaeans or Crete might have been
acquired elsewhere and may have traveled with some element of the Etruscans.
 And although "bucchero-ware" is distinctly Etruscan, the use of bucherro
clay and technique significantly pre-dates the Etruscans.  The museum at
Mytilene has a collection of "bucchero" pottery made at local workshops from
before the Classical era.  Bucchero jugs were among the finds on the Ulu
Bulun wreck suggesting early Cypriot or Phoenician usage.  There were
obviously a great many influences in Etruscan culture that came from far to
the east.  How they got to Etruria and whether language was one of them still
seems a valid question.  There is a strong case for local origin.  But when
you have so much importing, it seems hard to rule out the possibility that
Etruscan may have been a novelty that took hold sometime before 800BC among
people who were being introduced to novelties at breakneck speed.

I wrote:
<<If it came from foreign parts, it could have come with very few carriers,
but it would have had to provide indigenous people a very good economic or
social reason to adopt it.>>

acnasvers at replied:
<<Yes, and this "elite dominance" model advocated by Dr. White generally
requires many centuries to obliterate the indigenous languages. I'm not aware
of any evidence for native non-Etruscan speech in non-peripheral parts of
Etruria between 700 BCE and Latinization.>>

I was thinking more of a "trade language" model.  One only has to belong to a
few e-mail lists to recognize the universality of English.   Attributing that
to any kind of elite dominance is of course ludicrous.  There is a time when
adopting a foreign language becomes just plain practical and perhaps
sometimes a point when it becomes the only language that persists among a
diversity of very local languages - just for the sake of unified

The trade in both copper (e.g., for bronze) and iron in Etruria were
apparently quite valuable, judging by the gold the Greeks pumped through in
trade.  The notion that some earlier group had arrived from the eastern
Mediterranean to exploit the same resources is not out of the question.  The
fact that they did not leave their junk behind like the Greeks always did is
problematic.  Perhaps they were miners and engineers and sailors and had no
foreign potters or soldiers or aristocrats with them.  Or perhaps the fact
that the Etruscans had already converted to a mining and export economy
before the Greeks arrived might bespeak that earlier presence.  I seem to
recall that "rich guy" graves start appearing among the Villanovians before
the first sign of the Greek inundation.

<<The mechanism I favor involves the acquisition of bilingualism by those
Etruscans who dealt directly with Greek traders from Cumae and Pithecusae in
the mid-8th c. BCE; the ability to speak Greek would have had clear
advantages. During the second half of this century, many of these Etruscans
learned to write Greek also. Before 700, some of them got the idea to write
Etruscan, and during the 7th c. this idea spread through Etruria.>>

Perhaps it's the speed of this model that is troubling.  European IE
languages didn't convert to writing so quickly, even though they were
converting between related languages.  Some think Phoenician to Greek took
centuries.  It might make one suspect that an entire previously illiterate
population was not involved.  Or perhaps even that Etruscan itself might have
been spreading with the writing.

Steve Long

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