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  • ‘Tombstones’ in the North Italian Iron Age: Careless writers or athletic readers?

    Ruth D. Whitehouse

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

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    Several different types of inscribed stone monument of the North Italian Iron Age are interpreted as funerary markers and so could be described as ‘tombstones’. In the traditional classification of these monuments, the primary criterion used is the language of the inscription — Etruscan or Venetic — and the monuments assigned to the two different language groups are almost never discussed together. A second criterion is the typology of the monuments, variously described as stelae, cippi or ciottoloni. What is never included in the classification process, and is rarely discussed at all, is the arrangement of the writing on the surface of the stone and its relationship to the iconography, where present.

    The present chapter examines the tombstones from a different perspective, which places the form and arrangement of the writing at the centre of the analysis. The monuments in question exhibit widely varying arrangements of text, including horizontal or vertical lines on flat surfaces, horizontal lines around the circumference of cylindrical monuments, straight lines around the sides of figured panels, and a few unique elaborate arrangements. The arrangement of the writing on inscriptions with multiple lines of text also varies: some are written as sitting on separate baselines, so that the letters are all the same way up, while others are inscribed as on a continuous baseline, so that the letters of the second line are upside down in relation to those on the first. These different ways of organising the text have implications for the way people engaged with the monuments, both those who produced the inscriptions (traditionally labelled ‘writers’) and those who interacted with them subsequently (traditionally ‘readers’). The analysis considers the bodily movements involved in reading the inscriptions, the character of the original experience of visiting the cemeteries, and the implications for understanding the nature of ‘reading’ in Iron Age North Italy.

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    How to cite this chapter
    Whitehouse, R. 2013. ‘Tombstones’ in the North Italian Iron Age: Careless writers or athletic readers?. In: Piquette K. & Whitehouse R (eds.), Writing as Material Practice. London: Ubiquity Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5334/bai.n
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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.n


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