Abstract: For Weddings and a Funeral: Elite Etruscan Women and the Production of Ceremonial Textiles

Lecturer: Gretchen E. Meyers

Ancient sources indicate that Etruscan women enjoyed a more visible and participatory role in elite society than their Greek or Roman counterparts. Nevertheless, despite familiar funerary images of lavishly adorned Etruscan women reclining next to men, the social and ritual activities of these women remain rather invisible to us today.

A substantial body of evidence suggests that one area where ancient Etruscan women certainly contributed to their society was through the production of textiles. Several depictions of elite Etruscan matrons spinning and weaving, or exchanging cloth in ceremonial contexts highlight that the production of textiles may have been an activity that was not simply reserved for the domestic sphere. In this paper I survey the evidence that Etruscan women produced rich garments for social ceremonies such as weddings and funerals, particularly a series of visual representations from Archaic Chiusi. I argue that through the practice of a uniquely female craft, Etruscan women were able to participate in social and religious rituals in tangible ways. As producers of ceremonial objects they maintained a uniquely visible role as agents of ritual that set them apart in the ancient Mediterranean.

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John Odin Jensen is with the Sea Education Association at Woods Hole, and is also associated with the Rhode Island School of Design, the University of Rhode Island, and the Frank C. Munson Institute... Read More

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