With over 2,000 objects, the Etruscan collection, established by Phoebe A. Hearst and Alfred Emerson in 1902, is the largest such collection at a university campus in the United States.
A sophisticated and prosperous people living in central Italy between the 9th and 2nd centuries BCE, the Etruscans left much of their past through their material culture, namely, tombs, temples, settlements, and more. By the 7th century BCE, the Etruscans had created an expansive network of commercial and artistic trade routes throughout the Mediterranean and were avid importers of Greek and Near Eastern art. Much of their material culture has been preserved in their underground tombs, where they packed items for their loved-ones to carry to the afterlife. Their own artistic legacy lives on in their wall paintings, bronze and clay sculpture, vase paintings and gold jewelry. The Etruscans had a significant role in the development of early Roman art, architecture, engineering, and religious practice. By the 2nd century BCE, they were largely absorbed by the Romans.
The Hearst Museum cares for a wide variety of Etruscan objects, from life-size painted stone sarcophagi and terracotta votives, to painted pottery, painted clay architectural pieces, as well as bronze jewelry, sculpture and finely engraved mirrors. The Etruscan collection was acquired with an emphasis dedicated to teaching and research and offers abundant opportunities for undergraduate and graduate student research projects. The Museum’s collections contains complete tomb groups from Statonia as well as over 800 objects from a votive deposit at ancient Caere (modern Cerveteri), best exemplified by the female terracotta votive heads dating to the 4th century BCE. There are over 100 bucchero vases from sites such as Chiusi, Orvieto and Pitigliano offering a selection of over 200 years of bucchero production. The painted pottery features Faliscan and Caeretan works of superb quality, including signature works by the Berkeley Genucilia Painter. The collection, as a whole, reflects a broad range of elite, religious, utilitarian, and decorative arts showcasing the diverse and fascinating world of the Etruscans.