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Etruscan Civilization: A Cultural History

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Etruscan Civilization: A Cultural History , By Sybille Haynes. (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2001. Pp. 490, illustrated.) ISBN: 0-89236-575-7.

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - April 1, 2001

When studying and writing about ancient civilizations, academics, and students, all too often overlook the Etruscans in favor of the Romans. Yet, the Etruscans had a vibrant and long-lived civilization that had a significant impact upon the Roman civilization. And, in many aspects, the Roman civilization was built upon that of the Etruscan's. There has long been a need for an up-to-date, comprehensive overview of Etruscan Civilization that could be used to acquaint students with Etruscan history and cultural. Sybille Haynes' new book, Etruscan Civilization: A Cultural History admirably satisfies this objective.

Sybille Haynes is a renowned Etruscan scholar. She has authored several outstanding books on the Etruscans, including Etruscan Bronze Utensils, Etruscan Bronzes, Etruscan Sculpture, and an 'Etruscan' novel, The Augur's Daughter: A Story of Etruscan Life. Her newest work, Etruscan Civilization: A Cultural History. offers a solid overview of Etruscan civilization from its earliest Iron age beginnings until after it was fully absorbed by the Romans. Based on her years of research, Haynes has crafted an engaging and academically gifted work that is as up-to-date as the available evidence allowed.

This work follows a chronological format and it is resplendent with detailed maps, exquisite photos, and drawings. Many of these illustrations are of funerary art, pottery, statutes, and other surviving artifacts. The illustrations enhance the text and act as a serviceable museum expedition for the reader who might not otherwise have an opportunity to view Etruscan artifacts in the 'flesh'. Etruscan Civilization: A Cultural History is also so beautifully illustrated that is can also serve as a coffee-table book.

Using detailed archeological evidence, literary references, and material cultural remains, Haynes explores Etruscan life. Besides presenting a detailed historical overview, Haynes also explores a diverse range of culturally oriented topics. These range from the Etruscan system for naming people, to Greek influences, funeral traditions, the Etruscan aristocracy, religious life, agricultural practices, development of urban life, expansion, and various conflicts, both internal and external. Also covered is the absorption of the Etruscans by the Romans, and the role that the Etruscans played in early Imperial Rome. Throughout she gives particular attention to what life was like for women, and their role in Etruscan civilization.

This is a wonderfully written and researched book suited for a wide range of audiences. It is perfect for use as an introductory textbook or as a general reference book on the Etruscans. It is free of technical jargon, and is accessible to the nonspecialist and the general reader. Yet, it is also authoritative, and uses the latest research on the Etruscans and will therefore also be of interest to academics.

Related Reviews:

The Religion of the Etruscans, edited by Nancy Thomson de Grummond and Erika Simon.
Eight essays that detail our current understanding of Etruscan religious beliefs and practices.

Mesopotamia: Assyrians, Sumerians, Babylonians, by Enrico Ascalone.
Volume I in the Dictionaries of Civilization series, this volume provides a detailed overview of Mesopotamian history and culture.

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