Montovolo Retreat 15

From Australia to Montovolo: to Know the Archaic Etruscan "Navel" and its "Temple of the Lily"

By Graziano Baccolini

 (Versione in Italiano)

In November of 2005, Sally Colin-James, a PhD student at the Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia, wrote me to regarding the Etruscan vase of Tragliatella. She asked if I could help her conduct a search on the Etruscan culture. I informed her that I was not an academic in Etruscology but only a professor of Chemistry who, in the final stages of my career, wanted to venture into historical investigations - particularly those of the Etruscans. She replied that she was aware of my academic disclipline but was intrigued by the level of interrogation into new areas my research articles presented. Sally said she was struck more by my desire to explore and even subvert old ways of thinking, even beyond the information itself, and this is what urged her to connect with me.

Over the course of the next week, via email, Sally told me that her thesis of doctorate had different objectives; one of which was to analyse my research on the Etruscan symbolism. Particularly that which I have found in the lunette of Montovolo and others as the "egg" and the "cross". It is my opinion that these symbols, until now, have been neglected consciously or unconsciously. I had already received many letters from foreign researchers, above all young people, but also some senior Italian students, that thanked me for making my research so available via the internet. But Sally’s request was different in its enthusiasm since it pushed me to explore things in ways even I had not considered. Before my conversations with Sally my explorations were motivated by my own trajectories from historical thinking and studies. But I now I felt that I could share ideas, questions and hypoetheses with a person competent enough to upsh my boundaries of thinking even further. Some questions I found quite unpredictable in nature! She told me the nature of her doctorate was about pushing and breaking boundaries.

In this manner a very beautiful collaboration arose. Every two or three days Sally asked me, by email, questions that have never crossed my mind! Such as this: which do you think about the figure of the dolphin that so much fascinated the Etruschans? Why is it represented how it is in their tombs and frescoes and on their vases? Many questions like this engaged my mind to meditate a reasonable answer and for five months we shared an intense exchange of ideas. Ideas that, through the eyes of Sally, have helped me see the fascinating world of our ancestors, the Etruscans flourish even more to life.

Finally, in May 2006 Sally visited Italy on an meticulously planned and concentrated research trip. Among many things she was to visit many key necropolis and museums as well as to see the famous vase of Tragliatella. The day she arrived in Bologna we wasted no time in visiting immediately the necropolis and suggested acropoli at Marzabotto so she could view the oval stones I had become so intrigued by in my research. I also accompanied her to the Aria Museum where Sally wished to view the magnificent oval stone, known as "onion", on which there are carved interesting iconographies including a stylized figure of "lily". A lily that may be connected to the lily of the lunette of Montovolo. Sally was also intrigued to find an exquisitely crafted bronze lily which I had not previously noticed in the museum myself! The day after we travelled to the top of Montovolo and Sally could see the "famous" lunette of the Sanctuary with its engraved symbols: the two doves, the cross inscribed in a circle, and at the sides the two stylized flowers that seem lilies.

As I have explained in my articles these symbols taken in their totality , they indicate an Oracular Centre and the cross inscribed in a circle points out that the Centre is the most important, a "navel", as Delfi or Delo had been for the Greeks, so Montovolo has been for the Etruschan in the VI-V century BC. Sally has admired all the friezes of the Crypt of Montovolo, where there are again the symbols of the doves and lilies as in the lunette and for which I have presumed that the Crypt was the remain of an Etruscan temple that existed up to 363 AD and that I have named "Temple of the Lily".

In the days in which Sally has remained in Montovolo, and with Licinia (my daughter) acting as interpreter, I have answered questions on every aspect of my research about Etruscans and above all about the probable battle for the conquest of the Temple that occurred in the IV century AD. Even though our language was different, I could see in Sally’s eyes that she was conscious that this tragic event, till now unknown and never hypothesized, would have had a notable importance either for the history of the following centuries and also for her studies. But the collected data on this event is vague and remains largely undeciphered so my detail on it is.. incomplete.

Sally with her immense enthusiasm and his joy has conquered all of us! And everybody is waiting for that a day when she will return and could remain at Montovolo for many days , to hear other "disclosed " mysteries arising from this mountain and to spread them as far as in Australia and in the world with her books!

Sally (left) and my daughter at Marzabotto





July  2006

 Prof. Graziano Baccolini,

Università di Bologna, Dipartimento di Chimica Organica