Tag Archives: fibula

2013 in review

5 Jan

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

An observation on disc fibulae

5 Apr

In a previous post, we outlined some ideas on the meaning of the disc fibula of the Regolini-Galassi tomb and of related disc fibulae as a symbol of rebirth, and we proposed a possible origin of that symbol in the Middle East.  In a recent visit to the archaeological museum of Bologna, we found only one similar disc fibula although there are hundreds of fibulae on display in this museum. The simularity of this fibula is only superficial as it has the disc and the bow, but does miss the metal piece (or an attachment point) that symbolises the river.  Also, this fibula is probably Celtic, not Etruscan.

Disc fibula Bologna

The only disc fibula in the archaeological museum of Bologna

We also observed that in this museum nearly no golden or silver objects are present.  This looks like an additional support for the proposed idea. As the Bologna area did not have the gold and silver mines that Etruria had, there must have been less contact from this area with the Middle East, hence less influence by those cultures.  As we proposed that disc fibulae, such as the one in the Regolini-Galassi tomb, symbolise rebirth and as this concept was imported from the Middle East, it sounds logical that no such disc fibulae seem to have been found in the Bologna area.  Also the influence of Etruria in this region happens in the 6th century BC, later than the orientalising period in the 8th and 7th century where we need to situate the use of these special disc fibulae.  Again, all this needs to be proved by further research by specialists of Etruscan culture.

The new museum Palazzo Pepoli in Bologna, that opened on January 28, 2012 tells the story of the city of Bologna, from a Villanovan settlement to the city of today.  The museum contains a nice stereo 3D movie, made by CINECA, that features an Etruscan character called Apa, who was modelled on a flute player, depicted on a bronze situla from Certosa in the archaeological museum of Bologna.

Certosa situla in Bologna

Admiring the Certosa situla in the archaeological museum in Bologna

Detail of Certosa situla

Detail of the Certosa situla, showing the Apa character as flute player

Apa in archaeological museum of Bologna

Apa in the archaeological museum of Bologna

The Disc Fibula revisited

11 Dec

The ongoing exhibition Etruscans at the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam and the National Museum for Antiquities in Leiden brings together many splendid Etruscan objects from several Italian museums.  Through the Etruscanning VR application, many more objects are shown in a digital way.  One of the most splendid objects that is shown in this VR application is a large golden disc fibula, that is shown on the body of the deceased princess that was buried in the Regolini-Galassi tomb.

disc fibula

Golden disc fibula from the Regolini-Galassi tomb, dated 675-650 BC (photo: Vatican Museums)

Only a few similar objects are known (see two images below).  Maurizio Sannibale, the curator of the Museo Gregoriano Etrusco, where this large disc fibula resides, considers this object as a symbol of the transition from life (the top disc) to the afterlife (the bottom curved element) over the rivers (the middle bars) that separate the world and the underworld.

disc fibula München

Disc fibula from Ponte Sodo (Staatliche Antikensammlungen 2331, München)

In this double exhibition in Amsterdam and Leiden, several objects are shown from the Etruscan collection of the Allard Pierson museum itself.  Three of them are nice but small disc fibulae in bronze, that resemble another small disc fibula in gold in the British Museum, probably coming from Etruria.

disc fibula British Museum

Etruscan disc fibula in gold, dated 825-775 BC (photo: British Museum)

disc fibula British Museum

Detail Etruscan disc fibula, dated 825-775 BC (photo: British Museum)

However, these disc fibulae from the Allard Pierson Museum reveal an important secret.  As can be seen on the photograph below, all three fibulae are very similar in shape, structure and size to the one in British Museum.

disc fibulae APM

Three Etruscan disc fibulae from the Allard Pierson Museum (photo: Christie Ray)

Only the fibula on the left (see image above) has a middle part that depicts the river and has a slightly different bow.  All three fibulae carry the same decoration (see images below) as the one in British Museum: the  squares (maybe sun crosses) or swastikas on the top disc, the two or three bands that surround the top disc and seem to depict rivers through zigzag lines, the zigzag lines on the middle horizontal bar, probably depicing water and the zigzag lines on the bottom bow part.  When we compare these four small disc fibulae with the two bigger ones that are depicted above, we see a striking analogy of the same symbols that appear on the same parts with very similar shapes.  If we assume that the top disc depicts the world, this reveals the known depiction of the world surrounded by water on all sides, which is the first world model from the Bronze Age .

disc fibula APM

Close-up view of left disc fibula (photo: Christie Ray)

disc fibula APM

Close-up view of middle disc fibula (photo: Allard Pierson Museum)

disc fibula APM - detail

Detail of middle disc fibula with swastikas (photo: Allard Pierson Museum)

Closer inspection also reveals that the middle and the right fibula had also a horizontal bar attached on the small bow that protrudes just below the disc (see image above). In other words, we can assume quite safely that all fibulae shown here had a horizontal bar. This makes the similarity even more striking. Note the horizontal bar probably detached easily as the surface of the small bow, on which it was soldered, was very small, hence proving that such fibulae were used for funeral purposes only.

Based on this knowledge, we can identify many more disc fibulae that have the same characteristics: the disc (world) surrounded by sets of lines (water, rivers) and carrying depictions of life or swastikas, the small bow, to which the horizontal bar (river) was attached (but which is easily lost) and the bow, on which zigzag lines seem to depict water. Below, we show one from British Museum, which is older than the other fibulae shown above.

disc fibula British Museum

Disc fibula, dated 1000-880 BC, from Italy (photo: British Museum)

disc fibula British Museum

Disc fibula, dated 1000-880 BC, from Italy (photo: British Museum)

Many more fibulae can be identified if we allow a slightly wider variety of depictions of the same symbols. In the one below, from British Museum, the disc fibula below symbolises the waters around the “world” through one single ripple, very similar to the Ponte Sodo fibula shown above, while the water on the bow is symbolised through discs.

disc fibula British Museum

Disc fibula, dated 800-700BC, from Italy (photo: British Museum)

disc fibula British Museum

Disc fibula, dated 800-700BC, from Italy (photo: British Museum)

So, what has this to do with the virtual reconstruction of the Regolini-Galassi tomb?  We have proposed two hypotheses concerning the placement of the fibula on the body of the deceased: or it is placed on top of the face, or it is placed on the abdomen.

From the analysis above, we can conclude that the Regolini-Galassi disc fibula is not a decorative object, adorning the body of the deceased, but relates to an old symbol that seems to carry a consistent message of transition to afterlife, as the decoration and shape of these fibulae remain nearly identical over several centuries.

When trying to interpret this particular shape and decoration, we can make the link to the belief of the Etruscans that dying was being reborn.  We could interpret the bow of these fibulae as the expanded abdomen or “baby bump” of women, the water symbol on the bow as depicting the water that surrounds the fetus.  As each of the three parts of the fibulae carries the symbol of water, they probably also stress that water is the symbol of life, from birth to death.

In this sense, these fibulae probably can be compared to an Iron age bronze fibula from a grave in Lorestan, Iran, on which a woman is giving birth.

Lorestan fibula Louvre

Lorestan fibula, Iran, dated 1500-700 BC (photo: Louvre museum, Paris)

To conclude, we can state that the Regolini-Galassi disc fibula has a much higher chance of being positioned on the abdomen than being positioned on the face, not only because of size of the object but especially because of the symbolism of the object.

This blog is part of the Etruscanning project, that is being funded with support from the European Commission. This blog reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.


First version of the interactive application

10 Oct

The interactive application, that will be inaugurated in the Allard Pierson museum in Amsterdam on October 13, 2011, and in the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden on October 14, 2011, is working.  The application allows to interactively explore the Regolini-Galassi tomb by walking on a map of the tomb.  In the next blog entry, we will explain in detail how the application works.

tomb overview

View when enetering the tomb (image: CNR-ITABC)

This first version of the application shows already about 80 objects that were digitised in the last two months.  More objects will be added in upcoming versions. For digitisaton, several techniques were used. The tomb was digitised by laser scanning. Most objects were hand modelled from new photography that was made by the photographic department of the Vatican Museums.  Some objects (such as the cauldron with griffin heads above) were modelled by automatic photogrammetry from images.  Other objects could rely on physical reconstructions such as the chariot below.


View on the objects in the dromos (entrance) (image: CNR-ITABC)

Many objects need more work, as most objects still need to go through a process of extensive digital restoration to bring them back in their original  state at the moment of the burial.  This includes removal of corrosion and repair of broken or damaged parts. For others, the current reconstruction needs to be revised, based upon the most recent archaeological understanding about these objects (such as the chariot above).

cart and bed

View on the objects in the antechamber (image: CNR-ITABC)

Some objects were the result of extensive digital restoration. The situla for example (see image below) was recreated digitally based upon the current physical restoration.  This recreation was made by simulating the production processes of the object, such as engraving and embossing the sheet of silver that is wrapped around the wooden bucket.


View on the main burial chamber (cella) (image: CNR-ITABC)

For the first time, a visualisation is shown of the woman, buried in the Regolini-Galassi tombe.  Currently, we have limited the visualisation of the objects to the golden pectoral and the golden disc fibula, but future work will add more jewels, and the fibulae and golden leave decoration on the shroud.


View on the deceased princess (image: CNR-ITABC)

A lot of new research was done to concerning the position of the golden disc fibula.  As we could not prove from iconography that the shroud was used to cover the face, and as other research showed that such a fibula was rather placed on the abdomen, we stick in our visualisation to the second hypothesis we have proposed, in favour of placing the fibula on the face (see image below).


View on the disc fibula (image: CNR-ITABC)

A short movie, showing this first version of the VR application in action, can be found here.  The Etruscanning partners will continue to improve the VR application in its current form and develop new ways of visualisation and interaction for the next exhibition in Tongeren, Belgium at the end of 2012.

In the upcoming blogs, we will not only show the installation and the application in action, but also shown more details about the modelling and digital restoration of the objects, and about the storytelling paradigm of the VR application.

This blog is part of the Etruscanning project, that is been funded with support from the European Commission. This blog reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.


A mysterious fibula – revisited

14 Jul

Interpretation and virtual reconstruction of cultural heritage is very much like being a detective. Sometimes we are convinced about a certain possibility but in the back of our head, we have a small voice that wispers we could be wrong…

What is bothering me is the bottom part of the fibulae, that is sitting as a kind of cap over the nose of the deceased.  It all fits, it all has the right size, the early excavation reports says the fibula was found at the position of the head, but still, is there not a second possibility ?

Yesterday, I found a publication that discusses the Regolini-Galassi and the Ponte Sodo fibulae, that we analysed in the previous blog entry.  This publication dismisses the use on the head and proposes the use of the fibula on the abdomen of the female deceased.  If positioned this way, the fibula would fit just under the breastplate.  A possible meaning would be as follows.  The large disk represents the womb of the woman, the horizontal river acts as a kind of belt and the bottom “cup” covers the female genitalia.

While Grifi in his earliest publication (probably 1836) still depicts the fibula at the position of the head, in his 1841 publication, he leaves the question open and doesn’t depict the fibula at all (see image below).


The cella of the Regolini-Galassi tomb by Grifi (1841)

Canina in his publication in 1846 (see image below ) puts the fibula in the alternative position, but upside down…

Tomba R-G da Canina_cella

The cella of the Regolini-Galassi tomb by Canina (1846)

A second question that goes with that is how the shroud was used. Many Etruscan depictions of the deceased show them wearing a shroud but not over the head.  A few murals however show a shroud that is also put on the head (see image below) so that it would be conceivable that the shroud was closed over the face.


In the Tomb of the Monkey in Chiusi, the deceased woman follows the funeral games from the bier

So, what is the most logical and probable solution?  We need to make a choice very soon to implement it in the 3D reconstruction…

Anyway, those archaeologists in 1836 didn’t have an easy job either.  Below is a drawing, made in 1843, that evocates how the RG tomb looked like when they started excavations (as we noted before, a part of the roof had collapsed).  What we are discussing here, was lying under this pile of stones…

the RG tomb at excavation

The cella of the Regolini-Galassi tomb at excavation in 1836, by Samuel James Ainsley in 1843 (image: British Museum)

This blog is part of the Etruscanning project, that is been funded with support from the European Commission. This blog reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.