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Francesca Romana Serra Ridgway

7th March 2008

Appreciation by
Tom Rasmussen

Francesca Serra Ridgway, a graduate of Rome University and one of many distinguished pupils of Massimo Pallottino, was a leading scholar of Etruscan and Italic archaeology. She was based in Scotland for many years where she was Honorary Fellow in the Department of Archaeology (later, Classics) at Edinburgh University, where her husband David Ridgway also taught. Retiring from Edinburgh they both moved south and in 2003 became Associate Fellows of the Institute of Classical Studies in London.

Francesca Ridgway's death, on 7 March, ended not only a long marriage but also a long working partnership. There had been close collaboration on many projects. For years 'Ridgway and Ridgway' had meant the big jointly edited book of 1979 (Italy before the Romans), which has introduced innumerable students to aspects of early Italy, and which encompassed so much that both editors passionately believed in: in particular, getting important new scholarship to a wide academic audience, which here entailed securing the services of knowledgeable and sympathetic translators to render into impeccable English the detailed original, mainly Italian, texts. The fourteen chapters, many of them specially commissioned, took the reader through the whole peninsula, from the Bronze Age to Roman rule, and included the first account in English of Etruscan Corsica. One of the chapters, written by Francesca herself, is an important statement on the Este and Golasecca cultures of the north. Another, by Giuliana Riccioni, is still the best introduction in any language to Etruscan Vulci, a famous but still somewhat enigmatic site (because so little mentioned in ancient sources). More recently Francesca as editor had collaborated with Riccioni in the production of a book on the finds from early twentieth-century excavations at the same site (Vasi greci da Vulci, Milan 2003).

It was only natural that when it was time for a Festschrift it should have been to the honour of both Ridgways: Across Frontiers: Etruscans, Greeks, Phoenicians and Cypriots (London, Accordia 2006), has articles by fifty scholars fully reflecting David and Francesca's wide concerns, with especially important contributions in two areas, on the early Greek colonial settlement on the island of Pithecussae (Ischia) where they had for many seasons collaborated in studying and publishing the great series of tombs excavated by Giorgio Buchner, Francesca taking on the later burials; and on Sardinia, her family's area of origin and where she and David had longstanding interests especially in the field of native (nuragic) metalware on which both published several papers.

Although the Ridgways have worked in similar fields, they have each had their individual enthusiasms and lines of enquiry. Early on, Francesca had been one of a team working on the material from Pyrgi, the Etruscan harbour and sanctuary area close to Caere (Cerveteri), on which she published at different times, notably in 1990 with a wide-ranging article for the compilation Greek Colonists and Native Populations (ed. Descoeudres). She also had a long and productive association and friendship with Lucia Cavagnaro Vanoni and Richard Linington, both of the Lerici Foundation which had been involved in locating and excavating Etruscan cemeteries at Tarquinia. This resulted in her collaboration with the former on a presentation of some of the Etruscan painted pottery recovered (Vasi etruschi a figure rosse, 1989), with the latter on the publication in 1997 of the Fondo Scataglini necropolis (Linington directed the excavation but died in 1984), and in her own monumental study of the contents of these tombs, published in two volumes in 1996. These are all definitive works of enduring value. They not only demonstrated her expertise with all kinds of material, including pottery, metalware and engraved mirrors, but they also put Tarquinia, best known for its lively archaic tomb painting, firmly on the map as a centre of culture in the later periods, from the fourth to the second centuries BC. Francesca was also a sensitive iconographer - some of the Scataglini tombs too have painted interiors - and wrote penetratingly about Etruscan tomb painting.

Francesca Ridgway, like David, was always eager to promote the scholarship of others, among much else with her many reviews and review articles for Classical Review and other organs, helping to edit the English language version of Steingräber's Catalogue Raisonné of Etruscan Wall Paintings (1986), and giving a new lease of life to Brendel's classic Etruscan Art (2nd ed. 1995) with her vital bibliographic essay covering the years 1978-1994. This kind of work, undertaken from a deep conviction that scholarship is an important matter and the field of enquiry is worthy of wide dissemination, offers little personal kudos but is gratefully appreciated by the academic community.