Italy Prehistory – Bronze Age

By | February 24, 2022

The same cannot be said for the subsequent Aeneas age, in which a new fact is really felt, with the consequence of the setting of serious and discussed problems by paleoethnologists, and in which one must recognize the formative basis of that civilization which then it will be the Italian of the historic dawn.

The new fact is represented by the planting and development of the so-called Lombard-Emilian terramare, stilt houses in dry earth, rigidly organized in their most advanced type (Castellazzo di Fontanellato, Castione de ‘Marchesi, etc.) with standards certifying a higher degree of social coexistence, on the basis of a principle of collectivism, which is in absolute contrast with the substantiality of the previous Neolithic civilization. The contrast is increased by the first presence of the cremation funeral rite, practiced with dense necropolis characterized by an extraordinary simplicity, or roughness, and by the lack of personal distinctions. Thus northern Italy comes in a certain way to correspond to the picture offered by Central-Danube Europe with its “urn fields” (see burial and cremation).

According to Allcountrylist, the terramare civilization, rightly attributed to a population of farmers and fighters (next to the bronze scythes, the spears and swords stand out), although it is connected to that of lake stilts from the point of view of the generic housing system, it presents a very special intimate and overall aspect. Limited in space and time, it extends in lower-eastern Lombardy (Mantovano, Cremonese, Bresciano) and in Emilia, from Piacentino to Bolognese: it is known to us for a series of accurate and intense explorations, and with a number of more safe stations adding up to seventy or so. It has two phases of life, such as the more similar stilt houses of Garda (Peschiera): an older one, in which stone objects still abound (stations on the left of the Po), the other more recent, in which the replacement with bronze weapons and tools is almost complete (mainly Emilian stations). This second phase represents the fullness of age and the end; and therefore the Emilian terramare, really producing bronzes with intense activity and with typical shapes, like no other region of Italy of the time, were considered the epicenter of the Aenean peninsular civilization. About the beginning of the first millennium a. C., the life of the terramare almost suddenly ceases; and while later to the east of the Panàro the Villanovan civilization develops, to the west of that line there are few documents of a lingering terramaricolo culture (necropolis of Bismantova in the Reggiano area, and of Fontanella Mantovana), and on the truly terramaricolous archaeological layers only overlap traces of the so-called Etruscan era. Of the disappearance of the terramariculi, attributed to their migration beyond the Apennines by the classical Pigorinian theory, the real determining causes were only vaguely explained; today we want to think due to climatic changes, in harmony with the phenomena studied in southern Germany by the Gams and Nordhagen, and with which the level rise in Swiss lakes would also be related.

The uniformity of the bronze civilization in Italy, affirmed by some scholars, is only apparent; it can be limited to metal objects only. But the ceramic production, first of all, and the way of life resulting from the forms of dwelling and also from the funeral rite, impose a substantial difference on reflection.

First of all, detached from the terramare remains the culture of western piles, or Lombard, not rich and less varied, which at the end of the age spread to Piedmont (peat bogs of Ivrea, Trana, etc.); then the substance of civilization is completely different, not only of Sicily and Sardinia, but of a very large group of peninsular stations in which the old system is continued (villages of semi-underground huts, natural caves).

They extend from Veneto to Lucania, especially crowding the mountainous region sloping down towards the Adriatic; and, slightly different, they are also present in central and western Lombardy around the terramaricular concentration (Cella Dati, S. Pietro in Mendicate, Vho di Piadena, Calvatone, Gottolengo bresciano, etc.). Distinguished in small numbers by Pigorini himself, and explained as the seats of persistent Neo-Neolithic families, they were then highlighted by GA Colini (the most important: Marendole nel Padovano, Toscanella Imolese, Monte Castellaccio Imolese, Bertarina di Vecchiazzano forlivese, Villa Bosi and Cassarini in Bologna) that I connect them to the then known stations of the Marche (Arceviese, Grotta di Frasassi) and to the neo-Eneolithic persistence of the Vibrata Valley, and to the southernmost deposits (Grotta delle Felci in Capri, Grotta Nicolucci near Sorrento, Grotta Pertosa in Salernitano): the latter have been the object of a more profitable study by G. Patroni and U. Rellini, especially after the exploration of the Latronico Cave (Potenza). But the number of these stations has always been increasing, especially thanks to the investigations of Rellini, who, in order to better identify them, has proposed the name including extra-terramaricolous. Unfortunately, there are few sepulchres that either refer to them or can be connected to them; but the few (eg Povegliano Veronese, Toscanella Imolese, Parco de ‘Monaci nel Materano) confirm the contrast with the terramare, due to the burial rite practiced there.

Also for the extra-terramaric stations (see bibl.) Two phases must be recognized: the oldest one, in which bronze is almost completely absent (the Arceviese, Le Conelle and other Marche stations are typical), while the abundance and variety of lithotechnics are impressive; the other more recent and better documented in Emilia, in the Marche (Filottrano, Spineto, Pievetorina, etc.), in Abruzzo, Puglia and Lucania, in Campania and more recently in the Sienese area (Montagna di Cetona). In this later phase, the bronze objects are not so much valid, always very scarce, or never abundant as in the terramare, but it is the ceramic production that takes on a special significant value. Alongside the development of the black-glossy or pseudo-bucchero mixture, alongside the richer and more varied forms, Germanic Bandkeramik  . The development of the loops is also extraordinary, including the horned or lunate one, hitherto considered peculiarly characteristic of the terramare, but which the Patroni for the Lombard stations and the Battaglia for the Venetian stilt houses, and now also the Rellini for the Marche, see rise and evolve in extra-terramaric environments.

Another important fact is the cult professed to waters, spring as in the Pertosa Grotto, medicinal as in La Panighina (Forlì), or vague cult as in the Frasassi Grotto, and perhaps also in that of S. Michele in Monte Sant’Angelo (Gargano ).

Despite the discovery of Cetona (Belverde), almost in the heart of Italy, not counting Liguria where the ancient troglodyte life remains conservative, on the Tyrrhenian Tuscan-Lazio side the bronze civilization always remains singular, attested by a good number of storerooms and from a few sporadic finds of metal objects. And, in reality, while in the Emilian villages, more in contact with the terramare, the matrices for fusion were also found, on the contrary the Adriatic, Marche and Abruzzo stations stand out for their poverty of bronzes; which finally, if present in Belverde di Cetona, but not abundantly, belong to the end of the age and the dawn of the iron civilization.

By comparison, Sicily, which certainly influences southern Italy, develops its own civilization of the 2nd Sicilian period (type Matrensa-TapsoCassibile-Pantalica, for the necropolis, and type Caldare-Cannatello, for the inhabited areas) more supplied with bronzes ; moreover, Sardinia is richer in metal content, where the particular civilization of the nuraghi flourishes, with the singular production of figured votive bronzes (see bronze: Civilization of the bronze; nuraghi; sardinia; sicily).

Summarizing, for the Bronze Age, Italy presents these distinct cultural groups: 1. pile dwellings in the north (Veneto, eastern Lombardy: these are more comparable with the Swiss ones); 2. Lombard-Emilian terramare, forming a homogeneous group with typical characters; 3. extra-terramaric stations in the Po Valley, with greater contacts with the terramaric culture; 4. Apennine extra-terramaric stations (from Toscanella Imolese, through the Marche and Cetona, to Campania-Lucania) characterized by the “Pertosa-Latronico” ceramic style; 5. Apulian territory, where  dolmens  and  menhirs rise, still not clear in its precise meaning; 6. Sicily, more open, especially in the eastern part, to Aegean influences; 7. Nuragic Sardinia, where Eastern, Aegean, and Western, Balearic-Iberian influences converge.

For extra-terramaric groups there are no problems; the fundamental unity can be adduced as the first proof of neo-Eneolithic ethnic persistence; in addition to the influences coming from the north, from the terramaric civilization that propagates its metal products up to the Ionian Sea, one must take into account the Sicilian ones that are more conspicuous in the south (in the first place the funerary system of the caves in the Matera area); not yet definable are the supposed overseas influences.

Instead, the origin and life of the terramare are discussed. Against the prevailing theory formulated by G. Chierici, W. Helbig, L. Pigorini, who believes them to be founded by a powerful immigration of arias, the first Italics, stands the opposition of Brizio who attributed them to the same Neolithic peoples, from him call Liguri. But the terramaric civilization, with its rigid social organization, with the most developed metallurgical capacity, not accompanied by a true spirit of art, and finally with the funeral rite of cremation, an absolute novelty, is too discordant with the cultural essence of the neo-Neolithic peoples. , more suited, among other things, to the exercise of plastic and decorative, aesthetic virtues. Its overbearing individuality, and therefore its foreign origin, must therefore be recognized. On the other hand, the original place and the access road remain obscure: if still some paleoethnologists look to the Danubian East, such as D. Randall MacIver, however, the access route can no longer be considered the Val d’Adige, where the terramaricolo culture rises, but does not descend. The great route of all the historical invasions remains, through the Julian Alps, or, as Leopold has mentioned, demonstrating the groundlessness of the analogies so far adduced with the Hungarian material, the same one held by the first pile-dwellings, across the Alpe lacustrine.

Italy Prehistory - Bronze Age