2 Feb 2008

Finding structure in the Piacenza Liver despite academic claptrap - Part 2

(Continued from Finding structure in the Piacenza Liver despite academic claptrap - Part 1.)

I want to get beyond the same old explanation of the Piacenza Liver that I consider woefully insufficient in this day and age. To me, republishing information that is both several decades old and that continues to be filled with unanswered questions for so long is inexcusably shameful. I naturally start thinking that authors who do this are more concerned with social acceptance, fame and money than with rational honesty in the topic they represent. I'm sick and tired of reading a nauseatingly identical account of the Etruscan religion no matter what book I read. It seems this is the prevailing trend and the anti-scientific, self-defeatist excuse is always the same: "Etruscans are a mystery. We may never know". Speaking idealistically at least, scholars who are true scholars are captivated by their own study. They have a passion for it. Their love of learning compels them to find better answers and to search out new discoveries, not to play a game of Academic Telephone and effectively plagiarize the works of one's antecedents without even a shred of enlightened commentary to add. Perhaps it's believed that the average layman won't notice that few new ideas have really been published on Etruscan civilization since at least the 1970s. Few really care about Etruscans, the people. The only thing that makes headlines is their "mystery"; the popular media dehumanizes our ancestors all the time like this and in the process dehumanizes us.

So these rants are for those few that are genuinely bored with the "same ol' explanation" and want to finally connect the dots about what Etruscan cosmology is really all about. Let's talk first about some important and fascinating patterns that we may readily see in the Piacenza Liver artifact but which don't make their way into print for reasons that are beyond me.

The unspoken asymmetry

Goddess know's why, but for some reason, academics have failed to clue in that their nicely drawn diagrams that purportedly show a sky divided into sixteen equal parts, additionally cross-correlated with Martianus Capella's strange poetry about the cosmos, are not reflecting the material reality of the artifact that it was originally meant to explain. A picture is worth a thousand words, so let me draw you my own diagram of the issue that I'm talking about:

Evidently there is a snag in the status quo model but mum's the word about this blatant asymmetry in any literature on the topic. (The Academic Game of Telephone, as I said earlier. No one wants to be the nail that gets hammered down afterall.) The reason why the usual model can't explain it is because they keep ignoring, sometimes purposely due to nationalistic rhetoric, the fact that haruspicy was brought to Italy from Western Anatolia (modernday Turkey but known in ancient times as Arzawa) and that its traditions are steeped in Babylonian worldview as I made crystal clear using poignant photos in Part 1. Rather than acknowledge this simple fact, you may notice that De Grummond, Jannot, Pallottino, Bonfante and most other Etruscologists try far too hard to drag in Roman and Greek materials no matter how irrelevant to distract us from the importance that Ancient Near East religions play in breaking the largely artificial mystery of Etruscan religion.

It's rather interesting to me in a mathematical sense that once we count the sections labeled Tin Cilen, Tin Thuf and Tins Thne (situated in the "north" of the model) as merely three aspects of a single deity, one of these naughty asymmetries disappears and we end up with seven deities equally distributed on both sides of the east-west axis. Of course, the assymetry of the cardo line may require a more involved explanation that historians narrowly educated in only Greco-Roman history are probably not qualified to provide us.

(Continue reading Finding structure in the Piacenza Liver despite academic claptrap - Part 3.)


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