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Undergraduate Researchers

Catherine Pasqualoni

Catherine Pasqualoni, Ancient Studies

Image and status: representations of Etruscan women in funerary art

In general, the elite Etruscan women of the 6th century BCE held important and elevated positions in society, specifically when compared with low the social positions held by their Greek and Eastern Mediterranean counterparts. Following a long period of reduced intercultural trade and contact, and of general economic strife, in the Mediterranean world during the 10th and 9th centuries BCE, Greeks, Phoenicians, and other peoples began to make a reappearance on the Tyrrenhian coast of Etruria (which consisted mostly of modern-day Tuscany) in the 8th and 7th centuries BCE. In this period of renewed contact, Greek and Eastern Mediterranean art had a great stylistic impact on Etruscan artwork. This research will explore whether or not these influences had an effect on the public representations of elite Etruscan women in the 7th and 6th centuries, and whether they resulted in regional differences in public representations of elite women. I will examine images of women from sites such as Fiesole, Bologna, Murlo and Chiusi in the interior of Etruria and compare these images with those from coastal sites, including Tarquinia, Cerveteri, Populonia, and Vetulonia. The majority of the images I will be examining come from a funerary context.

How did you find out about the URA program?

I heard about the URA program when I was first applying to UMBC in 2007, and it has always been something for which I planned on applying--and, with any luck, receiving!

How did you figure out the project you wanted to work on? How did you find a mentor for this project?

I always knew that I wanted to study abroad in Italy, and to enrich my experience, I wanted to conduct research during my time there. When I knew for sure that I was going to be studying Archaeological Conservation in Florence, and that I would be working with Etruscan artifacts, I went to the professor in my department who has the most expertise in Etruscan archaeology, Dr. Marilyn Goldberg, and we began to brainstorm project ideas.

Was the URA application difficult? Who helped you? How long did it take?

The URA Application wasn't especially difficult, though to write a strong, clear, and concise proposal certainly wasn't easy. I had help from my mentor, of course, and also from friends who have had little or no experience with the subject. They helped me to make sure that my proposal would be clear and understandable to non-experts in the field.

What was the most interesting thing that happened in your research?

While conducting the travel portion of my research in Italy, I was able to gain permission to access the library of the Archaeological Superintendent of Tuscany. My professors in Italy were also able to connect me with some of the top scholars in Etruscan Archaeology, who in turn provided me with some advice on where I might find the most information relevant to my research.

What was the most difficult?

I think that very few research projects ever end up working out exactly as planned. During my travels, my visits to museums, and my attempts to gather a large and strong corpus of images for my study, I was constantly having to slightly tweak my viewpoint or the direction in which I had been planning on going with this project. It can be very difficult to keep your mind open to changes, and not allow yourself to be biased by your original hypotheses, while researching and interpreting evidence, but this is also extremely important.

What academic preparation did you have for the research you proposed?

I had completed five semesters of various Archaeology and History courses before applying for the URA. In the courses I had written research-based term papers, as well as papers based mainly on the interpretation of artifacts and images. My URA research is the first large-scale, artifact-based project I have undertaken, but I feel confident in my preparation, especially having the guidance and support of my mentor, Dr. Goldberg.

Would you recommend this kind of research project to other students?

I would absolutely recommend this kind of research to others! Unfortunately, these days, many people don't see how important it is that we understand the ancient civilizations of the world, for nothing that exists today would be the way that it is had it not been for the people and civilizations that existed before us. Understanding ancient history and archaeology is just as important to us in the twenty-first century as is understanding the political and cultural implications of World War II, or understanding the mechanics of the circulatory system. This kind of research is not only personally rewarding, it is important for all of humankind.

What are your career goals/plans for after UMBC?

I will be graduating in May 2012 and I plan on going straight to graduate school to study Near Eastern Archaeology, and (hopefully) Archaeological Conservation.