Monday, March 21, 2011

Etruscan Dirt and Other Coolness

Look at this picture and guess what this is. Hint: It's in the title of today's blog.

Yes, you guessed it! Genuine Etruscan dirt. Give yourself a pat on the back! "But why is it on your blog?", you ask. Thanks for asking. It's here because I have a piece of history on my desk: a broken chunk of Roof Tile from an ancient building. How ancient? Pretty ancient. This piece came from an archaeological dig in the town of Rada, Siena, Italy. The Etruscan culture is pre-Roman, and dates back as far as 800 B.C. in that region.

This was a piece that my brilliant and thoughtful second male offspring was permitted to bring back home with him from a dig he worked on this past summer. He knows I am nuts about Roman and pre-Roman culture and that I would treat this simple looking rock with extra care and attention. I have spent six months preparing and conserving it. That's a level of care and attention usually reserved for the seriously deranged stalker-types.

I used distiller water, magnifying goggles, tiny paint brushes, teensy probes, and eensy-weensy brain cells to work on conserving it. You'd think that since this hunk of terra cotta survived almost 3000 years of wear and tear, that I could just rinse it off with tap water, wipe it with a soft cloth and be done with it. And you'd be right; I could do that. And it would have taken me five minutes. I'd also be less likely to be called bad names and thought of as a total whack. But where's the fun in that?

The right way to do it is to act like I'm a serious archaeologist and dust it off painstakingly slowishly, while muttering to myself about the wonder and
beauty of the ancient people who created it. Yep, total whack stuff. Even better, I'm not finished! There's still plenty of crud to clean off if it is to be completely restored. However, I plan, in my nerdiest wisdom, to leave just a little bit of dirt on it. I want it to look as if it was of the era, but slightly used. Maybe I picture myself as an Etruscan Roof Tile dealer, and this is one of my many replacement pieces for those hard-to-fit sections of roof. Or maybe my strep and newly acquired stomach bug have addled what's left of my brain-mush.

No matter, I will press on and show off my prized dirt. It is the crown jewel in my private museum of Etruscan artifacts. Yes, it is the only thing in my collection, but one has to start somewhere. It can't all be gold and armor. I'm pacing myself. By next year, I plan to add new sections and include sand from ancient Cape May, NJ, and maybe even a little bit of navel lint I have stored up. Photos will follow, and possibly fame and institutionalization. Stay tuned.


  1. You always crack me up. LOL I must be a total nerd too, cuz I think that is so freaking cool and I want one. I'd also like one of those Venus of Willendorf statues.

  2. OMG!!! Like, Romulus and Remus might have frolicked under that roof. Well, Romulus, anyway. Poor Remus. And, of course, that's all happening way before your dirt (um, if at all, considering the likelihood of twin boys surviving on wolf teat is pretty low).

    Did I have a point? I think not. Oh, wait, yes!

    Really old shit is very sexy. Especially really old pre-Roman roof tiles. I haven't been to Italy, but when I get there (or Greece, for that matter) I'm touching EVERY ancient thing I can, without causing disaster or my arrest.

    Also, I want to visit old, dead Romans and call them all servi scelesti. The only Latin 9not countin veni vidi vici) that I recall. And that I've probably just mispelled. (It should mean "wicked slave.")

    Also also, (it's the new "PPS") I remember abite molesti. Get out of here pest. Speaking of which, I need to check the kids.

    Also also also, I vacationed in Cape May most of my childhood. Never met an Etruscan.

  3. Hopefully the Italian government doesn't see this post. I don't think they'd really get worked up about something this small anyway.

  4. @Raven: Nerds, unite! If you ever find or get your hands on one of those statues, you will be my archaeological heroine of all time! Nothing like a prehistoric fertility goddess to spice up a collection.

    @Nicole: You're on a roll. Don't stop! More Romulus and Remus! More Latin! More wolf teats! And I vacationed in Sea Isle City from the Sixties through the Eighties, then went to Stone Harbor and Avalon, with a couple of Cape May trips thrown in for good measure.

    @Adam McQuaig: Hey there, oh brilliant and thoughtful one! They wouldn't get worked up over a piece that was ALLOWED TO BE LET OUT OF THE COUNTRY, right? :-)

  5. A real testament to longevity. Cool.

  6. I have a chunk of an ancient roman building.
    Not allowed out.
    Its a small chunk.
    I have it in a glass case with the dust and dirt carefully preserved.
    I also have a chunk of an ancient Mayan Temple, and a small piece of forbidden terra-cotta.
    I still laughed my ass off at your post.
    But I relate a little too

  7. Tom, don't tell anyone, but there may be some "Grand Canyon" in my office too.
    Very cool with the Roman building. Great idea to preserve it the way you did. Mayan Temple. Sweet!