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  • The Other Writing: Iconic literacy and Situla Art in pre-Roman Veneto (Italy)

    Elisa Perego

    Chapter from the book: Piquette K. & Whitehouse R. 2013. Writing as Material Practice: Substance, surface and medium.

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    This chapter explores the relation between the metalworking tradition of ‘Situla Art’ and alphabetic writing in the Veneto region, north-east Italy, between c.650– 275 BCE. By taking further the approach of Italian scholar Luca Zaghetto, who suggested interpreting the iconographic motifs of Situla Art as a real language, I adopt and expand upon the concept of iconic literacy to elucidate the elaboration and fruition of both this sophisticated decorative technique and ‘traditional’ literacy in a phase of tumultuous socio-political development for Iron Age Veneto. Notably, the aim of this study is neither to demonstrate that situla art was structurally equivalent to alphabetic writing nor to identify general similarities in the logic of iconic and verbal literacy. Rather, by drawing on different strands of research that propose (a) breaking down the dichotomy between verbal and non-verbal modes of communication and (b) focussing on the value of literacy as a power-laden, historically- situated social practice, my analysis investigates the development of situla art and ‘traditional’ writing in Iron Age Veneto by tackling the socio-cultural milieu(s) in which they developed. As both Venetic situla art and writing appear to have initially spread in various elite contexts as a consequence of deep cultural contact with Etruria and other neighbouring populations, I explore their role in promoting the status of high- ranking individuals at different ceremonies, by advertising both their wealth and access to exotic ideas and materials. In particular, I discuss how situla art products and inscribed objects became variously part of a ‘package’ of selected ideologies, rituals, forms of display, and eating and drinking habits — often imported from outside Veneto — that came to draw a line between the elites and marginal social groups unable to access these resources. While analysing how the adoption and re-elaboration of these different ritual techniques and consumption practices shaped the Venetic elite lifestyle and communicative system, I also draw attention to some specific differences in the ritual use of situla art and writing, despite their potential connection to the same social sphere.

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    How to cite this chapter
    Perego, E. 2013. The Other Writing: Iconic literacy and Situla Art in pre-Roman Veneto (Italy). In: Piquette K. & Whitehouse R (eds.), Writing as Material Practice. London: Ubiquity Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5334/bai.m
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    This is an Open Access chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (unless stated otherwise), which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Copyright is retained by the author(s).

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    Additional Information

    Published on Dec. 18, 2013

    DOI
    https://doi.org/10.5334/bai.m


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