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Jean Turfa

The study of the inscriptions written in the Etruscan language and alphabet, usually texts incised on stone, pottery, or metal objects, or occasionally on more fragile media such as ink-on-cloth. Dipinti (painted inscriptions) appear on vases and frescoes, especially from tombs at Tarquinia, Chiusi, and Vulci. The unique characteristics of the non-Indo-European Etruscan language and its seminal place in transmission of the “Roman” alphabet and numerals make it impractical to divorce linguistic, historical, and social considerations from the study of Etruscan epigraphy. The gradual replacement of Etruscan with Latin characters and language may serve as an index of the political and social domination of the Roman state.The alphabet reached Etruria during the 8th centurybce; the earliest exemplar is a set of rocchetti (spools/tablet-weaving weights) incised with the letter A, in a woman’s burial at Veii, implying the involvement of women weavers in its dissemination.1 Early examples (7th-century, especially abecedaria or sample alphabets) retain letter forms developed in western Greek colonies such as Pithekoussai, including letters not used in the pronunciation of Etruscan.