This is my second book of “The Peoples of Europe” series, and I was surprised to find it was brand new. Turns out it was done via print-on-demand at the time of purchase, but is otherwise the 2004 printing (including all the information after the title page; the POD info is at the very back). Print on demand is a great way to keep books like this available, especially as there’s no ebook version. I assume that they have basically electronic ‘plates’ for the book, but no one to do formatting for ebook. The sad part is seeing the seven “in preparation” titles in the series listing that obviously are never going to happen since they still don’t exist after seventeen years, and Blackwell was bought by John Wiley & Sons, whose website seems to talk about anything other than their books.

The two authors of this volume seem to be past collaborators, and active in Etuscan field studies. The first (of 3-4) time there was a “when we did [blah]” was a bit startling. A wide range of papers and publications are referenced throughout the book, a few are by the authors, singly or together, but the number is low enough that I assume they were very conscious of the appearance of just citing themselves. It also shows a fairly wide ranging representation of the scholarship. As a people who basically ceased to be as the Romans took over Italy, we don’t have much direct knowledge, and surprisingly little written knowledge of the Etruscans, so this book is mostly engaged with laying out the archaeological record. My understanding is that there have continued to be great progress in this over the last two decades, so this is a book that could very usefully use a second edition.

Like with most ancient subjects relying on archaeology, there’s a lot of very careful supposition going on, and the book does a good job laying that out. Something that comes up early is that Etruscan is one of three known separate non-Indo-European languages in Europe (and the only dead one; the other two are Basque and the Finnic family) that didn’t arrive in historical times (like Hungarian, Turkic, etc.). Unlike in The Basques, the authors here generally brush aside any thoughts on figuring out how that came to be, but assume the settlement records indicate that, well, it was here as far back as we’re going to know. Interestingly, the language is pretty well figured out given the lack of, say, literary works that were done in it. It would seem that the Latin alphabet came from Greece through the Etruscans, and there is a nice full page chart of the variations in the Etruscan writing system. Also of interest is that ancient writers also commented on the fact that the language was notably different from the others around it.

In addition to copious footnotes, there’s an extensive bibliography, a summary of “selected reading”, and a 30+ page appendix guide to where to find Etruscan ruins and museums. Much of the main book is generally technical in direction, but the authors’ enthusiasm for the subject does come through, and helps a bit there. So, it’s a very good introductory guide, that packs as much material into the book as it can. Finally, I also need to point out that it’s nearly as well illustrated as your typical Osprey book (minus the color plates), with photographs and archaeological plans, though many of the photographs seemed extra-grainy to me; that might be an effect of the print-on-demand process.