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Few regions of the world are as closely associated with wine as is Tuscany. Its tradition of viticulture extends back thousands of years to the time of the Etruscans. And within those earliest Italian cities, wine was employed as a vital political instrument, an essential facet of the complex social and religious tapestry of Etruscan life. Archaeological excavation at the site of Poggio Civitate offers a window onto the customs and beliefs associated with wine within this enigmatic population of early Italy. Not only does paleobotanical evidence point to the practice of viticulture at the site, the equipment associated with wine consumption reveals the faceted and nuanced way in which wine and intoxication was linked to the Etruscan fertility divinity, Uni. This associated between wine and fertility represents one of the central ways in which aristocratic behavior at the site sought to define and perpetuate its relationship to this essential Etruscan sovereignty divinity.
Anthony Tuck is associate professor in the Department of Classics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and director of excavations at Poggio Civitate. He is the recipient of Umass’s Outstanding Teacher Award in 2015 and the author of several publications regarding his dig, including Vinum: Poggio Civitate and the Goddess of Wine (Montreal 2015)