are strange beasts.


In many ways, they are an absolute staple of history and archaeology writing, from the very first time you start to scrawl about the past in primary school. They grace rulers and classroom walls, depicting the linear march of events. They are the bald, raw, aspect of things-that-happened-long ago.

In my old position in archaeological travel, we provided guests with sets of “field notes,” each with a timeline for the relevant periods explored or countries visited on the tour. Yet before that, I used up good PhD space criticising periodisation, and arguing that putting labels on chunks of the past was unhelpful.

Now, I’ve come to the point of compiling my own timeline for my new popular book on the Etruscans (publication date tentatively next October; Etruscan death demon themed launch party planning commenced). The full text has been sorted for a while, but the publishers have asked for a timeline for clarity as part of the front matter. Fair enough.

The exercise, however, has made me realise just how subjective timelines are. What do you include, and what do you leave out? It’s made me confront my conflicted views on textual sources and their application to the Etruscan world: do I want to put in the date that Herodotus thought his exiled Lydians showed up in Italy? What does that say about what I believe?

While I wrestle with this, you might enjoy a more lighthearted approach. With tumultuous events happening in the world, what funny or unusual things would you put on a timeline of the historical period you are interested in? I mean, I’d like to put in “most poorly executed Etruscan red-figure vase made.” And maybe, “Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli stops for a spot of lunch at Murlo.”

Go on. It’s better than reading the news.


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