Tabula Cortonensis

Tabula Cortonensis Ancient Places and/or Civilizations Visual Arts

Although Etruscans lived in Italy, for many years, people in today’s world know very little about them. 

If Etruscans had literature, it didn’t survive. What we know about them comes from archeological remains or indirect sources.

What about their language? What kind of alphabet did they use? Can we understand what they left behind?

In 1992, Cortona—the town in which Frances Mayes lives—was the scene of much scholarly excitement when a 40-line Etruscan inscription on a bronze plate was found near that town. The inscription included 27 lexemes which were completely unknown before the plate’s discovery.

The bronze object is known today as the Tabula Cortonensis. Scholars believe it is a document exchange—likely from the 2nd or 3rd century, B.C.—between two families discussing a property transaction (or a legal inheritance of land). 

It was found in a broken condition with seven of eight (likely) pieces available for experts to study. Side A includes the names of the individuals who may have signed the document.

With the seven remaining pieces placed together, in an apograph, we can see how the original may have looked. Many of the words—which are Greek-like in appearance—remain unknown to scholars.

Experts believe the handle at the top of the object was used to store it (perhaps in an ancient version of a filing cabinet).

Click on the image for a better view of Side A.

Click here to view Side B (which contains most of the writing).

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Feb 18, 2020

Media Credits

Image, described above, online courtesy Wikimedia Commons.



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