Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
×
Home

Leaping to conclusions: archaeology, gender and digital news media

  • Lucy Shipley (a1)
Extract

In the autumn of 2013, a discovery was made in the Doganaccia necropolis close to the ancient Etruscan city of Tarquinia. A sepulchre was uncovered, mercifully and unusually unlooted. Inside were the remains of two individuals and a range of grave goods, allowing the tomb to be typologically dated to the late seventh or early sixth century BC. One of the individuals had been cremated, while the other was laid out in a supine position. Both were placed on funeral benches similar to those known from Etruscan tombs across the region (Steingräber 2009). This excavation was as unusual as it was spectacular—the equally vigorous efforts of nineteenth-century enthusiasts (Leighton 2004: 12) and twentieth-century tomb robbers (van Velzen 1999: 180) have left little of the Etruscan burial record undisturbed. Unsurprisingly, there was a great deal of media excitement over the burial, as its excavator, distinguished Etruscan scholar Alessandro Mandolesi, spoke with the press of his impressions of the remains and their relationship to the artefacts found in the tomb. Little of his exact words remain in the public sphere, but the impression he provided to the press was clear in the flurry of media reports that followed his statement. The ensuing media interest and archaeological developments present a number of serious issues for the practice of archaeology in an age in which digital media can magnify the impact of any major discovery. In addition, the interpretation put forward exposed the continued androcentrism inherent in many sub-disciplines of archaeology, which, 30 years on from Conkey and Spector's (1984) transformative publication, remain locked in deeply problematic interpretative patterns. This interpretation of the Tarquinia burial is emblematic of a far wider phenomenon, both within and beyond Italy, which has serious implications for future archaeological practice. This article unpicks both the media storm and interpretative paradigms that characterised this case study, and queries archaeological responsibility and visibility in an age of 24-hour news.

Copyright
References
Hide All
Arnold, B. 1991. The deposed princess of Vix: the need for an engendered European prehistory, in Walde, D. & Willows, N. (ed.) The archaeology of gender: proceedings of the twenty-second annual conference of the Archaeological Association of the University of Calgary: 366–74. Calgary: University of Calgary Archaeological Association.
Arnold, B. 1995. ‘Honorary males’ or women of substance? Gender, status, and power in Iron Age Europe. Journal of European Archaeology 3: 153–68. http://dx.doi.org/10.1179/096576695800703757
Arnold, B. 2001. The limits of agency in the analysis of elite Iron Age Celtic burials. Journal of Social Archaeology 1: 210–24. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/146960530100100204
Bartolini, G. & Grotanelli, C.. 1989. I carri a due ruote nelle tombe femminili del Lazio e dell’Etruria, in Rallo, A. (ed.) Le Donne in Etruria: 5568. Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider.
Bonfante, L. 2009. Gender benders, in Herring, E. & Lomas, K. (ed.) Gender identities in Italy in the first millennium BC (British Archaeological Reports international series 1983): 109–16. Oxford: Archaeopress.
Conkey, M. & Spector, J.. 1984. Archaeology and the study of gender. Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory 7: 138.
Cougle, L. 2009. Expressions of gender through dress in Latial Iron Age mortuary contexts: the case of Osteria dell’Osa, in Herring, E. & Lomas, K. (ed.) Gender identities in Italy in the first millennium BC (British Archaeological Reports international series 1983): 5567. Oxford: Archaeopress.
Gasperetti, M. 2013a. Tarquinia, scoperta tomba inviolata. Corriere della Sera, 21 September 2013. Available at: http://www.corriere.it/cultura/13_settembre_21/tomba-tarquinia-scoperta-archeologia_2088432e-22a2-11e3-b502-24e91794bc4d.shtml (accessed 1 December 2014).
Gasperetti, M. 2013b. Tarquinia, il risveglio del principe etrusco. Corriere della Sera, 22 September 2013. Available at: http://roma.corriere.it/roma/notizie/cronaca/13_settembre_22/scoperti-tesori-etruschi-archeologia-2223235710733.shtml (accessed 1 December 2014).
Ghose, T. 2013a. Oops! Etruscan warrior prince really a princess! Live Science, 18 October 2013. Available at: http://www.livescience.com/40530-etruscan-warrior-prince-is-a-princess.html (accessed 1 December 2014).
Ghose, T. 2013b. Etruscan prince is actually a princess, bone analysis reveals. Huffington Post, 20 October 2013. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/20/etruscan-prince-princess-bone-analysis_n_4131828.html (accessed 1 December 2014).
Ghose, T. 2013c. Skeleton thought to be Etruscan prince is actually a princess. CBS News, 21 October 2013. Available at: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/skeleton-thought-to-be-etruscan-prince-is-actually-a-princess/ (accessed 1 December 2014).
Hencken, H. 1968. Tarquinia, Villanovans and early Etruscans. Cambridge (MA): Peabody Museum Press.
Herring, E. & Lomas, K. (ed.). Gender identities in Italy in the first millennium BC (British Archaeological Reports international series 1983). Oxford: Archaeopress.
Hodder, I. 1999. The archaeological process: an introduction. Oxford: Blackwell.
Izzet, V. 2007. The archaeology of Etruscan society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511735189
James, S. 1993. Exploring the world of the Celts. London: Thames & Hudson.
Knüsel, C.J. 2002. More Circe than Cassandra: the princess of Vix in ritualised social context. European Journal of Archaeology 5: 275307.
Kreindler, K. 2012. Warrior princesses and weaving warriors: re-examining constructions of early Etruscan gender. Paper presented at the American Institute of Archaeology annual meeting, Philadelphia, 5–8 January 2012.
Leighton, R. 2004. Tarquinia: an Etruscan city. London: Duckworth.
Lorenzi, R. 2013. Skeleton of ancient prince reveals Etruscan life. Discovery News, 20 September 2014. Available at: http://news.discovery.com/history/archaeology/estruscan-prince-skeleton-rome-130920.htm (accessed 1 December 2014).
Pinna, A. 2013. È di una donna lo scheletro trova alla Doganaccia. Viterbo News, 26 September 2013. Available at: http://www.viterbonews24.it/news/e-di-una-donna-lo-scheletro-trovato-tomba-etrusca-nviolata-_30573.htm (accessed 1 December 2014).
Pope, R. & Ralston, I.. 2011. Approaching sex and status in Iron Age Britain with reference to the nearer continent, in Moore, T. & Armada, X.L. (ed.) Atlantic Europe in the first millennium BC: crossing the divide: 375416. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Rathje, A. 2000. ‘Princesses’ in Etruria and Latium Vetus? in Ridgway, D., Serra-Ridgway, F., Pearce, M., Herring, E., Whitehouse, R. & Wilkins, J. (ed.) Ancient Italy in its Mediterranean setting: studies in honour of Ellen Macnamara: 295300. London: Accordia Research Institute.
Spindler, K. 1983. Die frühen Kelten. Stuttgart: Reclam.
Squires, N. 2013. Italian archaeologists hail discovery of Etruscan warrior prince's tomb. The Daily Telegraph, 23 September 2013. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/10328047/Italian-archaeologists-hail-discovery-of-Etruscan-warrior-princes-tomb.html (accessed 1 December 2014).
Steingräber, S. 2009. Etruscan rock-cut tombs: origins, characteristics, local and foreign elements, in Swaddling, J. & Perkins, P. (ed.) Etruscans by definition: the cultural, regional and personal identity of the Etruscans (British Museum Research Publication 173): 6468. London: British Museum Press.
Toms, J. 1998. The construction of gender in early Iron Age Etruria, in Whitehouse, R. (ed.) Gender and Italian archaeology: challenging the stereotypes: 157–80. London: Accordia Research Institute.
van Velzen, D.T. 1999. The continuing reinvention of the Etruscan myth, in Gazin-Schwartz, A. & Holtorf, C. (ed.) Archaeology and folklore: 175–95. London: Routledge.
Whitehouse, R. (ed.). 1998. Gender and Italian archaeology: challenging the stereotypes. London: Accordia Research Institute.
Whitehouse, R. 2001. Exploring gender in prehistoric Italy. Papers of the British School at Rome 69: 4996. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0068246200001768
Winther, H.C. 1997. Princely tombs of the orientalizing period in Etruria and Latium Vetus , in Andersen, H., Houby-Nielsen, S. & Rathje, A. (ed.) Urbanization in the Mediterranean in the 9th to 6th centuries BC: 423–46. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Antiquity
  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquity
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed