31 Jul 2009

A new value for Minoan 'd'

I realize that as long as my blog has been around, I haven't gotten down and dirty on the topic of the Minoan language. There is so much hearsay about the language that it might be worth a look-see into what the facts we know of and then, from there, see if we can't push the envelope a little.

Minoan is written in a simple hieroglyphic script called Linear A. It's called "linear" in the sense that it's less hieroglyphic than it is a series of abstract lines once intended to form images that are now often next to impossible to piece together. Since many of the symbols are shared with the related script, Linear B, the script of the Mycenaean Greek language, it's logical to presume until proven otherwise that the Minoan symbols have the same or similar values to those found in Greek. However despite Linear B being cracked, Linear A currently defies categorization and all that can be reasonably sure about it is that it wasn't being used for an Indo-European or Semitic language since it shows no grammatical patterns relating to either of these language groups despite several attempts.

Things get really interesting when we plug in the Linear B values into the Linear A symbols because we end up with what appears to be an oddly lop-sided stop series as a result:


k, q

We may observe the odd gap involving an apparent absence of voiced b and g to go with d. My strategy is so far to take for granted that Minoan really was a language lacking voicing contrasts in stops (simple Occam's Razor again) and that the transcription using Linear B values largely reflects reality. However if true, then it suggests that some values like that normally transcribed as d must be off a little since the above gaps are very rare to non-existent in world languages. We then might look for a more reasonable value for d that rebalances this phonology in a more natural way and even more preferably, a value that also explains its eventual usage in Greek.

If there are no voicing contrasts in Minoan stops, then it seems to me that the likeliest value for d is something more like an unaspirated affricate: //. There are also two apparent sibilants s and z in this language, so perhaps with d and z having the same point of articulation we might similarly suggest a value of /ʃ/ for z.

This admittedly casual thought of mine comes with some interesting side-effects though, for good or for bad. While we find the name of a Cretan town, ku-do-ni-ja 'Kydonía', written in Greek Linear B, we also find a Minoan parallel in Linear A, ku-do-ni (HT 13.4, HT 85 a.4) ~ ka-u-do-ni (HT 26 b.2-3), which might then be rewritten as Kaučoni /kawtʃoni/. I'm not the first to equate these names in both scripts together. And is it possible that the name Kydonia is ultimately a Minoan word for 'quince', I wonder? All idle thoughts perhaps, but this is what my busy mind has been thinking of so far and maybe a reader out there has something more to add here... ?

28 Jul 2009

Diktaian Master of Crete?

When I was briefly interacting on the online forum AegeaNet before quickly pulling the plug on that shallow group, there was a certain individual there pushing his article called 'Diktaian Master': A Minoan Predecessor of Diktaian Zeus in Linear A? by Miguel Valério. Personally, I'm a spartan Stoic and prefer facts over naive friends. However this forum gave me neither friends nor facts. These anonymous group forums are more an irritation for me than informative since I never know on the face of it whether I'm talking to a genuinely educated person, a kook or an outright troll. I'm also not a team player even on my good days and am proud of my antiGroupThink stance. Goddess forbid if Albert Einstein was forced to validate his theories of time dilation and multidimensional geometry by nothing less than group consensus. Where would we be at today? String theory à la Wikipedia? Eeek! But I digress...

The little spat this individual and I had concerned the Libation Formula, a long phrase repeated several times with minor variations on Minoan libation tables. (John Younger is kind enough to display the variations of this interesting formula on his site at people.ku.edu.) My opponent apparently had meant his article, which had been published in Kadmos in March 2008, to be an effective counterargument to my philosophy of not only analysing each word of the inscription individually but translating the entire inscription coherently at the same time. Surely this constitutes a stronger theory than one based only on picking words out of context according to personal whim and word games as the late Cyrus Gordon was so prone to do. Ironically, as you will notice when you read the above article, it appears that Valério falls into the same stubborn pitfall with closed eyes and his arguments become a matter more of faith than science.

Valério makes an interesting, if not convincing, case in favour of identifying words like labyrinthos in the end as derivatives of a Minoan root as he pans through a plethora of vraisemblable vocabulary in various languages of the Eastern Mediterranean. While Luwian verb tabar- 'to rule' is attested, he notes that it coincidentally remains unanalysable in Indo-European terms. It's true that given our pitiful knowledge of the Minoan language, a Minoan source of the word remains an idle possibility that can't yet be proved or disproved. So granted, it's difficult to resist capitalizing on that gap of information to weave a thought-provoking article. As long as the author properly separates fact from speculation, there's no harm in the open exploration and may to the contrary inspire others to dig a little deeper.

However, it's on page 9 of the article when interesting trivia starts to crumble into subtle self-worship as he treats his hypotheses now as if they were reality without further necessary proof. Valério admits in the accompanying footnote of the following quote to parroting previous word games played by Gareth Owens, his Kadmos predecessor of 1993: "I now follow the idea that the first element of the form in question, i.e. (ja)-di-ki-te-te-, is related to Mount Dikte." I do hope this is not shallow namedropping of the "keep in the family"-type because Owens has ne'er a hope of doing better at linking this Minoan string of sexy syllabica to Mount Dikte when using the same flawed methodology of phonetic eyeballing. This reference is only a distraction to the reader rather than an aid. Following this is another empty statement that the reader must plod through: "Consequently, it is difficult a priori not to translate this whole shape as ‘Master of Dikte (dat.)’ (vel sim.), even though this translation leaves us with two unexplained affixes: j/a- and -(e)-te." Difficult to avoid a priori statements? Egad, a logician he is not. Non sequiturs still beg to be resolved here: Why 'master'?; Why 'Mount Dikte'?; Why 'Master of Dikte'?; What proof of a dative case in -te? Etc.

Beyond just two unexplained affixes (indeed, if they can even be proven to be genuine morphemes at all), this is another tragic case of splicing and dicing text however one feels with complete disregard for surrounding context and deeper, overall meaning. Rather than strengthen his case with objective fact, the author already skips straight to the repercussions of his grandiose discoveries/delusions of a most tiny snippet of text by the conclusion of page 10 and, as I'm bombarded with one assumption after another, the text becomes increasingly irritating for me to read.

Nowhere here has Valério truly established with any certainty why du-pu₃-re must read 'master' as opposed to any of the other billions of possible permutations that this item could possibly represent. There is also no attempt to crack the entire Libation Formula, the true core of this puzzle that is suspiciously avoided. Fundamentally, despite all the disjointed archaeological, linguistic and religious factoids in his arsenal of 'evidence', Valério is just playing another meaningless word game as sensible deductive procedure is ignored.

24 Jul 2009

Laryngeal overdose in the Indo-European second person

For the record, I hate the abuse of laryngeals. What I mean by "abuse" is when people, unsatisfied with a protolanguage proven to contain seemingly exotic laryngeals with accompanying vocalic effects, decide to add laryngeals to every stem to account for all long vowels, whether it can be justified or not, and end up succeeding only in muddling the whole grammatical system in the process, obscuring the very thing they attempt to clarify.

A quick and easy example of this is Bhadriraju Krishnamurti's use of laryngeals in the 1st and second pronouns *yān 'I' and *nīn 'you' (or in his view, *yaHn and *niHn[1]) to account for lengthening in the nominative which opposes oblique stems *yan- and *nin- lacking added vocalic length. Without laryngeals, it should be already clear to a knowledgeable linguist that many languages simplify stems in oblique case forms without the need to appeal to arcane infixation of one 'miracle phoneme' or another. We see this same simplification of pronominal stems between noun cases in PIE when *tu with back high vowel in the default nominative case opposes *twe. What was once *u throughout the entire 2ps pronominal paradigm must have apparently weakened at some point to a lower vowel *e in oblique cases. The phenomena exhibited in these two protolanguages are surely one and the same and therefore do not require laryngeals to explain them.

So to the topic now, there's a succinct reason why the 2nd person singular perfect ending *-th₂e contains a laryngeal that apparently even many IEists, so seduced by their own ideas, forget to take into account. It's given this laryngeal because of the Sanskrit reflex -tha whose added aspiration should otherwise not be present. As a result, we obtain a nice symmetry on the PIE level between 1ps perfect *-h₂e and 2ps perfect *-th₂e.

Yet further, it's precisely that very phonemic symmetry embedded in the perfective system that ultimately helps to explain the emergence of laryngeals in 2ps endings and stems at all! It can be readily seen from this pattern that the true reason for the laryngeal in the 2ps perfect is analogical levelling with the adjacent 1ps ending. While the laryngeal of the 1ps is legitimately ancient and stemming from the earliest stages of Pre-IE, the 2ps laryngeal cannot be. It should also be noted that without a laryngeal in this ending, it would otherwise be identical with the corresponding 2nd person plural ending *-te, adding further motivation to this irregular change[2].

Coincidently, there is no other evidence for laryngeals elsewhere in second person morphemes, whether it be in *tu (2ps. nom.), *twe (2ps.acc.), *tene (2ps.gen.) or *-s(i) (2ps.dur.). Putting laryngeals in places they needn't be is a grave misanalysis on the part of a comparative linguist who's obligated by Logic to find the simplest solutions possible given the available evidence.

[1] Krishnamurti/Emeneau, Comparative Dravidian linguistics - Current perspectives (2001), p.336.
[2] I should add that my theories on syllabic structure in Mid IE (ie. the stage before stress-motivated Syncope) forbid onset clustering at all via Occam's Razor. No Semitic loans identified during this period seem to require tautosyllabic consonant clustering in Mid IE either. All clusters in PIE seem to be the result of later Syncope and the changes in legal syllabic structure that ensued. Yet if we're obligated to side with this typological simplicity of Mid IE, this is yet one more reason why the onset cluster seen in *-th₂e cannot be any older than the early Late IE period. We may then presume the singular form to have been *-te before this time.

21 Jul 2009

The Etruscan vineyard has longer vines than I thought

I've long been skeptical of the communis opinio regarding the Etruscan phrase vinac restmc cenu in the Tabula Cortonensis. The Bonfantes simply translate vinac as 'vineyard' and restm as 'cultivated land' without any references showing how on earth they decided on this. When people fail to show their references I get annoyed because a lack of references is a good sign that someone is either telling a deliberate fib or that they sincerely don't know what they're talking about. This apparently ad hoc interpretation of the vinac hapax has then provided the foundation for a more elaborate pop belief that this artifact must be speaking of a transfer of property from one person to another regarding a vineyard and estate on Lake Trasimeno. All based on snippets of text that can't hope to be truly understood until an internally consistent translation of the entire text is finally provided. Readers should feel hoodwinked.

Besides the fact that the archaeological and linguistic context alone cannot afford us an a priori equation of vinac as 'vineyard', I just noticed a new fact that makes this value especially suspect. It turns out that there's a Georgian stem, wenax-, which just so happens to mean 'vineyard' as well. Rather than believe in a sincere connection between these geographically well-separated languages which a good historican can tell immediately would be an utter fantasy, my instincts are telling me rather that some person or persons of the academically isolated Trombetti camp[1], desperate to translate Etruscan by any unmethodological means, decided randomly that this Georgian word from the Kartvelian (aka. South Caucasian) language family must be the key to this Etruscan riddle. Why Kartvelian? Who knows? Who cares? Given the many crazy books on Etruscan published each year, this would hardly be an unmotivated suspicion on my part.

While Gamkrelidze and Ivanov have suggested that the Georgian word is borrowed from PIE **weinag-[2], I must in all good conscience cite this with double asterisks rather than one because their shoddy evidence not only denies the plausibility of this alleged stem at the Proto-Indo-European stage, but it also makes it unlikely that *wenaq- is anything older than dialectal Kartvelian, restricted instead to the Georgian-Zan subset. Plus, G&I's largely unaccepted reconstruction hardly looks like a well-formed Indo-European stem to begin with.

Since the Bonfantes aren't overt in The Etruscan Language (2002) about the sources of their deductions, I can only surmise that this odd connection is what they themselves secretly believed once the artifact had been discovered in 1992, a notion possibly built on the works of their misguided linguistic antecedents like Trombetti. If so, I can see why such poor references and reasoning would be disassociated from the value they give in the short glossary, out of the scope of sharp-tongued, skeptical readers such as myself.

If we reject these fish stories, what could this Etruscan word really mean? We must put methodical grammatical analysis before willy-nilly tripe from the start: the noun phrase vinac restmc is properly segmented as vina-c restm-c once we accept the obvious that they're both extended with the common conjunctive -c, giving us the two direct objects of the subsequent transitive participle cenu 'brought'. Any reasonable translation must then be of the form "Both vina and restum (were) brought." This double conjunctive pattern is inscribed also in CIE 6213 (apa-c ati-c "both father and mother") and emphasizes the conjunction expressed (ie. X-c Y-c → "both X and Y.") in much the same way as the French disjunctive ni is likewise repeated for additional force in ni le garçon ni la fille "neither the boy nor the girl".

The grammatical patterns of the phrase themselves and the uses of these words in other inscriptions (vina (na.sg.) [CIE 310], vinai-θ (loc.sg.) [TCap xv]; cenu [CPer A.x], canu [TLE 775]) show us bluntly that vina- should never be interpreted as a type of property without ripping the delicate semantic web of the Etruscan language to shreds.

All indications are that vina is a ritual offering, no doubt simply a libation of wine.

[1] Pulgram, The tongues of Italy (1958), p.193: "According to some of them, Etruscan is, for example, intermediate (not mixed) between Indo-European and Caucasian (Trombetti 1909, unfavorably criticized by Herbig 1909, 362-364 and Sergi 1922, 7-8; Trombetti 1927; 1918, v-vi and passim, fully discredited by Cortsen 1932, 43 ff.); [...]."
[2] Klimov, Etymological dictionary of the Kartvelian languages (1998), p.51.

19 Jul 2009

Want data on Etruscan inscriptions? It'll cost you dearly.

Last month at Current Epigraphy, Benelli's Thesaurus Linguae Etruscae and Wallace's Zikh Rasna: A manual of the Etruscan language and inscriptions were given top pick from among Bryn Mawr Classical Review's May & June 2009 listings.

Chuck Jones, a librarian at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University, compares the two comically like this: "Thesaurus Linguae Etruscae 445EUR = $630 = a dollar a page with enough left over to bind it. A manual of the Etruscan language and inscriptions $65 = 15 cents a page with enough left over to bind it and buy lunch."

And now a darker perspective: Why does the study of history seem almost as though it's being held for ransom by shrewd academic capitalists as if humanity had no right to its own past for free? Isn't $630 a little obscene for the majority of the world to pay for raw information? All most can hope for is that it may one day travel its way to a local library in one of the coming decades. What a pity that scholarly institutions can't do any better to share this basic knowledge with the entire world in the so-called "Information Age". A lot of historical mysteries could be solved faster if the data was generally available to all restless minds in the world. Then again, a lot of career authors would be out of a job.

18 Jul 2009

The identity of the Etruscan god Tecum

When re-reading Jean-René Jannot's last book Religion in Ancient Etruria (2005), I continue to feel that he's grasping at straws, muddling his way blindly through the murky waters of both Etruscan language and religion, not firmly understanding either. In this respect, it would appear he is merely a typical Etruscanist who sells mystery and hearsay in place of diligently researched facts. On the curious deity Tecum which is found inscribed on the Piacenza Liver he writes on page 147: "The sector after Uni's (no. 5) bears the inscription tec/um. Could this be one of Menrva's names - one linked to her cosmic function?" As I've remarked before, this book is riddled with errors of various kinds (see Paleoglot: Religion in Ancient Etruria: A comedy of errors that keeps on giving), too many for my liking. (Here too the inscription in question should have been more accurately written tec/vm with digamma transcribed properly by 'v' instead, as one can see with the available photograph below on the bottom right portion of the border. Fortunately, it's only a minor detail this time.)

First, if we must squeeze out the Capitoline Triad from our analysis of the Piacenza Liver, Cilens-Tin-Uni seems a more apt solution since at least from this we obtain a more aesthetic symmetry when Uni and Minerva (as Cilens) flank both sides of the three aspects of Tin. In effect, a triad within a greater triad. On the other hand, there's nothing showing outright that the specific Capitoline Triad as Romans knew it must be present here in the first place. At any rate, that still leaves us with the nagging mystery concerning the true identity of Tecum.

Personally, I'm a fan of linguistic analysis as a valuable tool in helping to solve these kinds of mysteries. The Piacenza Liver is a bronze object designed to express the entire science of divination into a single model, uniting the practices of divination from lightning and bird omens (nb. the border representing the horizon and associated deities which is useful for these practices) with that of omens read from sheep livers (nb. the inner portion useful only to haruspicy). So it seems reasonable to presume that, where it regards the specialty of divination, notoriously considered Etruscan by even fellow Romans who employed Etruscan haruspices, there should be few if any xenonyms for the native Etrurian pantheon. That is, it would be rather unusual for an otherwise native practice to be riddled with names of foreign Roman and Greek names, wouldn't it? So as such, if we take Tecum to be a native name, the name then may unclench its secrets under our linguistic analysis and give us a hint as to this deity's underlying function.

Finding a root in this name is a cinch, which can only be the verb tec as seen in its simple preterite form tec-e (TLE 651)[1]. The remaining is a suffix -um which is fortunately attested a few times in what appear to be abstract, uncountable derivative nouns expressing concepts of mass or material as in meθlum 'people' (from *meθil 'group') and vinum 'wine' (from vina, also 'wine'). In TLE 651 where we find tece in the sentence Auleśi Meteliś, Vel. Vesial clenśi, cen flereś tece, its most sensible value must be something along the lines of "erected" or "set up" since its accusative object (cen flereś) refers to the bronze statue on which this inscription is inscribed.

So given these facts, is it too unreasonable to deduce that Tecum literally means 'Firmament' and thus 'Sky'? Could it be that Tecum represented the vault of the heavens perchance? I hate to brag but this idea, whether correct or incorrect, beats randomly assigning Tecum to Minerva based on a package of whims.

[1] We might also analyse tece as a past perfective if indeed a syncopated form of earlier *tecuce.

16 Jul 2009

What the deuce? I'm nominated? I feel love!

I've been notified that my blog has been mentioned on Lexiophiles, a site devoted to the passion of linguistics, where I've been nominated for Top 100 Language Blogs 2009 in the category of Language Professionals. Neato. It's nice to be considered professional. Flattery will get you everywhere. Fine, I'll bite into the reciprocal advertising ploy. Why not? Lol. And the competition looks mighty fierce too. There are a lot of great blogs listed there that I've never been aware of before. Interesting.

So click the icon below to vote for your favourite blogs and make your opinion count:

(Alas, it's times like these that I wish I'd given my blog a name starting with "A" instead of "P", hehe.)

13 Jul 2009

Bureaucracy stifling academic innovation

Hardly a newsflash, is it? I just came across a recent article by Donald W. Miller Jr. entitled The Government Grant System: Inhibitor of Truth and Innovation? [pdf]. Essentially it details some core problems existent in the current American grant system that disfavours support for research that contradicts scientific orthodoxy.

This is nothing new, of course, and is a predictable outcome of many bureaucratic systems that take over the role of cultural accountant, dividing funds up to only those that it may deem "academically worthy". It's always hopeful that a bureaucracy is wise enough to make informed choices and to take appropriate actions towards the welfare of meritorious scholars and towards the benefit of society as a whole. However, this is too often not the case and, when bloated and mismanaged, bureaucracies can quickly turn into oppressive buddy systems.

An interesting thought I take out of this article is the concepts of "Apollonian" (pro-orthodox) and "Dionysian" (anti-orthodox) research. Miller proposes that a balanced system should be remodeled to explicitly allocate funds for both types. This is a commonsense solution to me but, being pessimistic, I somehow doubt this superior model will be implemented as long as human politics are involved.

10 Jul 2009

No-frills Royal Game of Ur now available on Paleoglot

I whipped up another program - this time the Babylonian Royal Game of Ur. My game doesn't have errorchecking for moves yet and it doesn't even care where you place your pieces but it's still playable with a friend next to you. I'm still thinking about what rules I should code into it so, for now, enjoy.

The following image shows what I think makes the most historical sense about the gamepath. Since the related Egyptian 20-Squares game is an obvious variant of this Royal Game of Ur and shows that the 2x3 square portion of the Babylonian game has merely been "unfolded" into a straight line (or rather the Royal Game of Ur has been "folded" into its shape from the 20-Squares game, depending on whichever came first), it helps to narrow down the possibilities of gamepaths considerably. It seems rather safe to conclude the gamepath below. More on this later but essentially, the first four pieces are a safe zone that aren't shared with the opponent and beyond this the pieces proceed cautiously down symmetrically opposed paths to their respective end points where the pieces are then taken off the board as in the Egyptian game Sínat.

6 Jul 2009

Ashes to ashes

You're probably all tired of all this talk of eggs lately and the rotten stench of my stale ramblings are probably overwhelming at this point. Well, tant pis pour vous, mes camarades. Lol. This is my blog afterall and I've still got Etruscan eggs on the brain. There's a nagging passage in the Liber Linteus that I want to address now and this is in connection with my hypothesis that luθ could mean 'egg'.

Let's examine the three lines of LL 6.xvii, xviii and xix:

eslem . zaθrumiś . acale . tinś . in . śarle
luθti . raχ . ture . acil . caticaθ . luθ . celθim
χim . scuχie . acil . hupniś . painiem.

Since it seems that no linguists to date have conclusively cracked this portion of the ancient text yet, we're left to our own devices to decipher it ourselves. So I take liberty here, based on what I understand of Etruscan grammar at this point, to divvy up the punctuationless text above into clear sentences as follows:

Eslem zaθrumiś Acale, Tinś in śarle.
Luθ-ti raχ, ture acil.
Caticaθ luθ cel-θi-m.
Χi-m, scuχie acil hupniś.

Now, let's start with what we know. (Naturally!) We know that the opening phrase Eslem zaθrumiś Acale is a calendar date meaning "On the 18th (day of the month of) Acale". Acale is glossed as Aclus in Papias' Liber Glossarum and associated with the Roman month of Iunus (ie. June). Next, while tinś could also mean "of the day" and thus part of the previous phrase, it could also mean "for Tin", Tin being the deity to whom the rite to be yet described is devoted. While the verb in the following phrase is a hapax, we may reasonably conclude that in śarle means "it was śaril-ed".

In the second line, ture means "(they) gave" and is the simple preterite of tur 'to give', matching the verb tense of the previous sentence. So the second line seems to have a structure suggesting the interpretation "Raχ-ing in the luθ, they gave acil."

In the third line, only cel-θi-m can be understood without controversy as "then in the earth" since cel is earth, -θi is the inessive postclitic "in", and -m is a phrasal conjunctive meaning "and so" or "then". This sentence is without explicit verb, emphasized by the fact that the phrasal conjunctive marks a noun rather than a verb as it normally does.

In the last line, only hupniś can be read with some confidence, referring to something going "to the tomb chamber", if the Bonfantes' published translation is correct at all.

Evidently, as a whole, this inscription is talking about a funerary rite of some kind but what gets interesting is when this inscription is understood in the light of my idea that luθ means 'egg'. From my perspective, Tin, as sun god and head of the pantheon, is the recipient of devotion. Then we would read here that an offering is presented (ture) to the solar deity by placing something inside an egg (luθ-ti raχ). It could be a real egg, but more practically-speaking likelier to be a clay egg, as was used for burials and other rituals by both Greeks and by Egyptians. The next sentence, Caticaθ luθ cel-θi-m, may then mean something like "Then this very egg (is placed) in the earth." We get the impression that something must be buried because of the next funerary word, hupniś.

Egg burial?? Death of an egg? Hmmm, where have I seen this death/rebirth rite in Etruria before... Oh yes, the Pyrgi tablets, written in both Punic and Etruscan, which make it clear that Etruscans worshipped the death and rebirth of a deity at some point in the year. Smith in Origins of Biblical Monotheism (2001) on page 118 interestingly states: "Although this inscription suggests the death of some god, no one knows which god was involved. (The only deity mentioned by name in the inscription is the sun-god in line 5, and there is no need to connect him with the referent found in the dating formula.)" Perhaps there's more reason than Smith realizes...

Consider that your high-protein food for thought for today.

3 Jul 2009

More about egg symbols in Etruria and the rest of the classical world

There seems to be a constant resistance towards my previous articles on eggs and Etruscans. I've been getting a fair amount of 'egg-symbolism denial' - a kind of stubborn resistance to a historical fact that eggs were being used as an important religious symbol of the sun, cosmos and the immortal soul in classical times. Even a certain member of the online forum Aegeanet when I had joined months ago, all the while needlessly bragging to me about her knowledge in classical Greek history, had the audacity to deny the symbolism behind eggs being held up so obviously high in the air by reclining persons in painted murals of banquet scenes located in Etruscan tombs. Despite the fact that classical Greeks too used the same symbolisms, she insisted on a purely literal interpretation of the Etruscan murals which was more than a little naive for a self-described historian, if not edging terribly close to full-blown crackers in my honest opinion.[1]

On a very superficial level (superficial as in 'Paris-Hilton superficial'), it may sound a little humourous that Etruscans were venerating a tasty staple of the modern breakfast table and using it as a symbol of immortality. Perhaps it may seem akin to making an amulet out of Corn Flakes, but let me assure everyone that this is NOT something *I* dreamed up off the top of my hat. Historians, good ones, are widely aware of this historical fact as published in a pile of decent literature over the century. The common ritual of painting eggs during Easter is quite bluntly an offshoot of this earlier symbolism.

So the following are some more handy references to books on the existence of this motif. It's really not strange at all. It's strange that people aren't more aware of it, actually.

Behold! The Cosmic Egg link farm
Simoons, Eat not this flesh (1994), p.156: "In Rome, the egg, symbolic of life and fertility, was used in the rites of Venus and various deities associated with the earth and reproduction. Thus, an egg preceded the religious procession for Ceres, goddess of agriculture. Macrobius also wrote that in the rites of Liber, Roman god of fertility and wine (who was also called Bacchus and identified with Dionysius), eggs were honored, worshipped, and called the symbol of the universe, the beginning of all things. Eggs are represented on Roman sarcophagi, and funerary offerings of eggs, whether real or made of clay or stone, were common in early Greece, perhaps with the wish that the spirit of the departed may have a renewal of life."

Rykwert, The idea of a town - The Anthropology of Urban Form in Rome, Italy (1999), p.126: "As the egg was a picture of the whole universe, so the telluric mundus became a representation of what the Pythagoreans were the first to call cosmos."

Hall, Etruscan Italy (1996), p.70: "In the Near East, eggs were considered symbols of fertility, life-giving power, and, ultimately, resurrection; and the Etruscans' paintings and artifacts suggest that they, too, viewed the egg as a chthonian motif."

[1] I've unplugged from the AegeaNet insanity permanently. There's still the matter of their handling of the Minoan bull iconography and Minoan language that still sends me for a tizzy. I must still write about that. I can get more from this blog and people's interesting comments here anyways than a stuffy and poorly moderated forum tucked away in a dusty corner of the internet. Bah! Lol.