By Ingrid E.M. Edlund-Berry
in consultation with Lucy T. Shoe Meritt
Department of Classics, The University of Texas at Austin


Left: Professor Lucy Shoe Meritt at a symposium and exhibition of her architectural drawings,
May 1998, The University of Texas at Austin. Photo: Chris Williams. Right: Professor Ingrid Edlund Berry
and John Berry measuring a "podium" block from the north edge of the plateau of Poggio Colla.

Thanks to the pioneering work of Dr. Lucy T. Shoe Meritt (Visiting Scholar, The University of Texas at Austin), it is possible to identify the specific characteristics of the Etruscan architectural tradition as distinct from its Greek and Roman counterparts.

Peculiar to Etruscan architecture is the use of a rounded molding, used primarily at the base of monumental tombs, temples, and altars. Although the form of this molding may vary between the different Etruscan cities, the basic principle of the "Etruscan round" remains constant from the Archaic period into Roman times (6th-2nd century B.C.). Because of the somewhat idiosyncratic individualism expressed in the art forms represented in the major Etruscan sites, it is usually possible to attribute a molding to a geographical region, but other evidence is need to provide a secure chronology at each site.

Sandstone block, possibly a podium cap, from the north edge of Poggio Colla,
discovered by Dr. Francesco Nicosia during his excavations from 1968-1972,
and uncovered by the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project in 1996

These principles of Etruscan moldings were presented by Dr. Meritt in her 1965 publication. New discoveries made since that date have not only confirmed her thesis, but also shown the importance of Etruscan traditions in Roman and Italic architecture. It is in this context that the body of architectural moldings from Poggio Colla play a major role for future study. They represent the largest number of "new" moldings discovered since the famous altars at Lavinium, south of Rome, and the variety in form between the rectangular podium blocks and round bases complements our evidence from other sites throughout Etruria. As can be expected due to the individuality of Etruscan sites, no exact parallels for the Poggio Colla moldings can be quoted at this point, but the basic form of the large single or double round fits into the patterns known from sites close to Poggio Colla, such as Fiesole, as well as further away, such as Orvieto and Rome.

The excavations at Poggio Colla have already produced invaluable evidence for Etruscan monumental architecture; continued study of important details such as the moldings will make it possible to provide the historical context for the impressive buildings that once occupied the site.

The first Tuscan column base being excavated in 1995 in Poggio Colla Trench 3


Column base after its removal by conservators from The
Gabinetto di Restauro, Soprintendenza Archeologica della Toscana


Column base prepared for transport to the Gabinetto del Restauro, Firenze


See information on the exhibition: The Legacy of Lucy Shoe Meritt: Texas Contributions to Etruscan Archaeology: November 22, 1999 - February 4, 2000, in the Hawn Gallery of the Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas.


Dr. Ingrid Edlund-Berry

The University of Texas at Austin
Department of Classics, WAG 123
Austin, TX 78712-1181, USA

Telephone: 512-471-5742 (office)
Fax: 512-471-4111

Research Projects