Etruscan Inscription Reveals Name of Primary Goddess

An Etruscan tablet unearthed earlier this year at the Poggia Colla excavation site has been partially deciphered to reveal the name of the goddess Uni. The Sixth Century BCE stele, bearing a long inscription in a language dormant for 2,500 years, was discovered at the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project in Tuscany. 

Often regarded as an enigma in the history of the Western Mediterranean between the contraction of Greece’s conquests and the rise of Rome, the Etruscans actually had a robust written culture, thought, however, to have been mostly recorded on heat- and humidity-sensitive materials such as linen and wax. During its height, from approximately 800 to 500 BCE, the Etruscan civilization founded some of the major cities in modern Tuscany, including Florence, Pisa, and Siena.

Though we know them mostly through their funerary monuments, the Etruscans also had a pantheon of gods and goddesses who are both similar to and different from the Roman deities. Uni, who corresponds roughly to the Phoenician Astarte, the Greek Hera, and the Roman Juno, was worshipped as the supreme goddess, the consort of Tinia and the mother of the demi-god Hercle (who becomes Hercules to the Romans).

The collaborative dig is sponsored by Franklin and Marshall College, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology, the Center for the Study of Ancient Italy at the University of Texas at Austin, the United Kingdom’s Open University, and Franklin University Switzerland.

Reference: “Scholars Find Name of Goddess in Etruscan Inscription”  Archaeology, 26 August 2016.


Stele inscribed with the name of the goddess Uni, c. 550 BCE. Southern Methodist University.

Bronze statuette of a sea creature, c. 600 BCE. antiquarium of Corciano, Perugia. Find spot: Strozzacapponi.

Lion with an Etruscan inscription on its back, c. 600 BCE. Capitoline Museums, Museum Montemartini, Nr. 27876.

Mirror back with Hercle seizing Mlacuch, c. 500 BCE. The British Museum, Nr. DSCF0012 02.

Fragmentary temple sculpture, c. 500 BCE. Museo archeologico e d’arte della Maremma.‎

Terracotta roof antefix, possibly of Uni or Juno. Altes Museum Berlin, Nr. 1579451447.

Dionysos with two satyrs. Handle of the Ficoroni Cista, c. 300 BCE. National Etruscan Museum of the Villa Julia.


Further Reading:

Colette Hemingway 
and Seán Hemingway. “Etruscan Art” on the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, 2004.

Sybille Haynes. Etruscan Civilization: A Cultural History. Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2005.

Larissa Bonfante, Nancy Thomson de Grummond, Mario Torelli, et. al. Etruscan Life and Afterlife: A Handbook of Etruscan Studies. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1986.

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