Biblical Archaeology Review 23:4, July/August 1997


Etruria, Central Italy

The divine protectress Juno Sospita, molded in terracotta and painted in vibrant red and black, once smiled from the roof of an early-fifth-century B.C. Etruscan temple. Worshiped throughout central Italy as a guardian of cities, the deity wears her characteristic colorful helmet, with checkered crest, goat ears and horns (one of each is missing), and stylized palm branch.

The Etruscans dominated central Italy during the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. and established trade routes throughout the Mediterranean. As their contact with Greece increased through trade, they adopted the early Greek practice of protecting wooden buildings with sloping gabled roofs covered with clay tiles and moldings. With the local stone unfit for carving, Etruscan artisans became masters at terracotta, using molds to create their designs, which they then painted and fired. The face of Juno Sospita was part of a molded antefix, or architectural ornament affixed to one end of a semi-cylindrical clay roof tile.

Etruscan law forbade the removal of anything from temple precincts, so outmoded clay decorations and votive offerings were buried in special pits, called bothroi, dug just outside temple buildings, where they are often found by archaeologists.

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