The Bucchero Childbirth Stamp on a Late Orientalizing Period Shard from Poggio Colla

Phil Perkins 1
  • 1 Department of Classical Studies, The Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom


A unique stamp on a shard of bucchero found at Poggio Colla during the summer of 2011 represents what appears to be a scene of childbirth with a crouching mother delivering a baby. The artifact’s closest Etruscan iconographic parallels–the scenes found on the Archaic relief slabs from Tarquinia–illustrate a crouching female but without the baby. Additional Etruscan scenes combine the crouching pose with a range of animals, suggesting an association with the “Mistress of the Animals.” A survey of the few related images from around the Mediterranean not only establishes the rarity of childbirth images in the classical world but also the uniquely Etruscan character of the shard’s imagery. When its context–a redeposited occupation stratum of a settlement dated to the end of the Orientalizing period–is assessed in conjunction with its iconography, it becomes possible to view the stamp’s imagery as alluding to concepts of fertility and reproduction tied to the power of nature and regeneration, all of which would have been appropriate in an Etruscan banqueting context attended by elite men and women.

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Etruscan Studies: Journal of the Etruscan Foundation is the leading scholarly publication on Etruscology and Italic Studies in the English language.The journal details activities in all areas of research and study related to the Etruscan and pre-Roman civilizations and publishes articles as well as reviews of meetings and publications of interest to the professional community.