For the Wall Street Journal, SMU’s Willard Spiegelman reports on the exhibition, From the Temple and the Tomb, at SMU’s Meadows Museum of Art. We don’t know much about the Etruscans in northern-ish Italy (i.e., Tuscany). In fact, Etruscan or Tusci is the term for them used by the Romans, who more or less supplanted the ET’s by 500 B.C. The Etruscans called themselves Rasna, and we’re not even sure what that means or where it’s from because, somewhat mysteriously, Etruscan was a non–Indo-European language (i.e., unlike just about everything else spoken in modern Europe).
Dr. Spiegelman wonders why the Meadows, which concentrates on Spanish art, would bother with the Etruscans. The Meadows exhibition, purportedly the largest display of Etruscan materials in America, comes mostly from the National Archaeological Museum in Florence. But accompanying the show is another show (not mentioned by Dr. Spiegelman), New Light on the Etruscans. This one draws on the discoveries made during 15 years of archaeological excavations — ahem, led by SMU. So there’s your answer. Until the 1970s, there wasn’t even much archaeological study of the Etruscans. They were mostly seen as a historical footnote, a prologue to the better-known Romans. So the SMU work has been instrumental in expanding our meager knowledge of the culture.