Abstract: Weaving as Worship: Reconstructing Ritual at the Etruscan Site of Poggio Colla (Vicchio)

Excavations on the acropolis of the Etruscan site of Poggio Colla have uncovered a monumental structure with at least three construction phases, spanning the seventh-second centuries B.C.E. (Warden, et. al. JRA 18 (2005), 253-266). Sacred architecture and votive deposits, including a hoard of women’s jewelry, secure the designation of this space as a sanctuary with a history of ritualized usage. The discovery in 2010 of a ceramic fragment with stamped image of a female figure giving birth, together with numerous tools for both weaving and spinning uncovered within the confines of the sanctuary point to the veneration of a female deity, as well as the potential involvement of female craft production in ritual.

This paper examines how archaeological evidence can be used to reconstruct Etruscan ritual through an analysis of the architecture and finds from the sanctuary at Poggio Colla. In addition to more than ten votive contexts, production of sacred cloth or garments is indicated by the distribution of weaving tools on the site into distinctive areas for spinning and weaving. Two of the site’s votive deposits appear to contain gold adornment for cloth alongside other ritual implements. Analysis of this evidence, together with comparative material from Etruria, Latium and Southern Italy, suggests a particularly inclusive role for Etruscan women as producers of ceremonial cloth, and hence active participants in ritual.


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