Next week I will be attending and presenting at a conference to be held at the Villa Giulia museum in Rome, Material Connections and Artistic Exchange: The Case of Etruria and Anatolia, and I am pretty darn excited. As an Etruscan specialist who now works for an Anatolian site, Sardis, this conference is the melding of my two worlds. I’ll finally be able to meet scholars from the Lydian side of things, as well as reconnect with all my Etruscan colleagues. Plus, hanging out in Rome in May ain’t a bad deal. And of course, I’m already envisioning myself prancing through the galleries at the Villa Giulia after hours like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music.
But Etruria and Anatolia…haven’t we beat this dead horse enough? Well, we really haven’t, because the amount of hits on the web one gets that insist that the MYSTERIOUS (shoot me) Etruscans sailed over from Lydia this one time far surpass those that say, “Hey guys, that’s not the situation here, as a ton of archaeology has demonstrated.” We have the surfacing and re-surfacing of that Guardian article from 2007 stating that genetic testing confirms the link, and not nearly enough circulation of the wonderful, rigorous, open-access article in PLOS that states the contrary.
We cannot deny, however, that at its most essential, there is a lot of stuff in Etruria that looks like a lot of stuff in Anatolia. I cannot count the number of times I’ve looked at an object in the Sardis databases and thought, “Man, the Etruscans would totally dig this.” Objects and ideas go back and forth, no one will deny, but it does not have to be the colonial model of Lydians sailing over and bringing culture wholesale into Etruria. Etruscan agency is, at the very least, an equal partner here.
You know what doesn’t happen enough, though? We don’t talk to each other. Etruscan scholars and Anatolian scholars do not chat on the regular. This conference is an ideal opportunity: a bit of historiography, a bit of iconography, a bit of trade and economics, etc.
And, as part of my journey through an alt-ac career, I had a major breakthrough. Without my asking, my boss came to me and said that Sardis wanted to offer financial support for my attendance at this conference and understands that it benefits my professional development, as well as raises the profile of the excavation. After having to take vacation days and spend my own money on academic conferences, I now have institutional support.
Now if I could just get them to take my term contract and make it permanent…