Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

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  • The Fertile Crescent

    The Fertile Crescent is a term for an old fertile area north, east and west of the Arabian Desert in Southwest Asia. The Mesopotamian valley and the Nile valley fall under this term even though the mountain zone around Mesopotamia is the natural zone for the transition in a historical sense.

    As a result of a number of unique geographical factors the Fertile Crescent have an impressive history of early human agricultural activity and culture. Besides the numerous archaeological sites with remains of skeletons and cultural relics the area is known primarily for its excavation sites linked to agricultural origins and development of the Neolithic era.

    It was here, in the forested mountain slopes of the periphery of this area, that agriculture originated in an ecologically restricted environment. The western zone and areas around the upper Euphrates gave growth to the first known Neolithic farming communities with small, round houses , also referred to as Pre Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) cultures, which dates to just after 10,000 BC and include areas such as Jericho, the world’s oldest city.

    During the subsequent PPNB from 9000 BC these communities developed into larger villages with farming and animal husbandry as the main source of livelihood, with settlement in the two-story, rectangular house. Man now entered in symbiosis with grain and livestock species, with no opportunity to return to hunter – gatherer societies.

    The area west and north of the plains of the Euphrates and Tigris also saw the emergence of early complex societies in the much later Bronze Age (about 4000 BC). There is evidence of written culture and early state formation in this northern steppe area, although the written formation of the states relatively quickly shifted its center of gravity into the Mesopotamian valley and developed there. The area is therefore in very many writers been named “The Cradle of Civilization.”

    The area has experienced a series of upheavals and new formation of states. When Turkey was formed in the aftermath of the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians perpetrated by the Young Turks during the First World War it is estimated that two-thirds to three-quarters of all Armenians and Assyrians in the region died, and the Pontic Greeks was pushed to Greece.

    Israel was created out of the Ottoman Empire and the conquering of the Palestinian terretories. The existence of large Arab nation states from the Maghreb to the Levant has since represented a potential threat to Israel which should be neutralised when opportunities arise.

    This line of thinking was at the heart of David Ben Gurion’s policies in the 1950s which sought to exacerbate tensions between Christians and Muslims in the Lebanon for the fruits of acquiring regional influence by the dismembering the country and the possible acquisition of additional territory.

    The Christians are now being systematically targeted for genocide in Syria according to Vatican and other sources with contacts on the ground among the besieged Christian community.

    According to reports by the Vatican’s Fides News Agency collected by the Centre for the Study of Interventionism, the US-backed Free Syrian Army rebels and ever more radical spin-off factions are sacking Christian churches, shooting Christians dead in the street, broadcasting ultimatums that all Christians must be cleansed from the rebel-held villages, and even shooting priests.

    It is now time that the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians is being recognized, that the Israeli occupation, settlements and violence against the Palestinians stop, and that the various minorities in the area start to live their lifes in peace – without violence and threats from majority populations, or from the West, and then specificially from the US.

    War in the Fertile Crescent

    Everyone is free to use the text on this blog as they want. There is no copyright etc. This because knowledge is more important than rules and regulations.

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Prehistory of Italy



Origin theories



Bronze Age

Late Bronze Age

Iron Age


Rinaldone culture

Remedello culture


Villanovan Culture

Prehistory of Italy

The prehistory of Italy began in the Paleolithic period, when the Homo species colonized the Italian territory for the first time, and ended in the Iron Age, when the first written records appeared in the Insular Italy.

In prehistoric times, the Italian peninsula was rather different from how it is now. During glaciations, for example, the sea level was lower and the islands of Elba and Sicily were connected to the mainland. The Adriatic Sea began at what is now the Gargano Peninsula, and what is now its surface up to Venice was a fertile plain with a humid climate.

The Italian peninsula has been inhabited by tool-making hominids since at least 730,000 BC, by Neanderthals since 120,000 BC, and by anatomically modern humans since about 35,000 BC. Thousands of Paleolithic-era artifacts have been recovered from Monte Poggiolo and dated to around 850,000 years ago, making them the oldest evidence of first hominins habitation in the peninsula.

Excavations throughout Italy revealed a Neanderthal presence dating back to the Palaeolithic period some 200,000 years ago,  while modern Humans appeared about 40,000 years ago at Riparo Mochi. Archaeological sites from this period include Addaura cave, Altamura, Ceprano, and Gravina in Puglia.

Homo sapiens sapiens appeared during the upper Palaeolithic: the earliest site in Italy dated 48,000 years ago is Riparo Mochi (Italy). In November 2011 tests conducted at the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit in England on what were previously thought to be Neanderthal baby teeth, which had been unearthed in 1964 from the Grotta del Cavallo, dated teeth from between 43,000 and 45,000 years ago.

The Pleistocene glaciations caused the human populations of central and northern Europe to migrate southwards. At the height of the last Ice Age (about 35,000 to 13,000 BC), the sea level was about 120 meters below its present state, which radically changed the geography of the Mediterranean.

Agriculture reached the peninsula from the Middle East between 7000 and 6000 BC, marking the start of the Neolithic. The seminomadic hunter-gathering lifestyle was replaced by a sedentary society, with large fortified villages and an economy based on agriculture and animal husbandry.

Cardium pottery is a Neolithic decorative style that gets its name from the imprinting of the clay with the shell of the Cardium edulis, a marine mollusk. The alternative name Impressed Ware is given by some archaeologists to define this culture, because impressions can be with sharp objects other than Cardium shell, such as a nail or comb.

Impressed Ware is found in the zone “covering Italy to the Ligurian coast” as distinct from the more western Cardial beginning in Provence, France and extending to western Portugal. This pottery style gives its name to the main culture of the Mediterranean Neolithic, which eventually extended from the Adriatic sea to the Atlantic coasts of Portugal and south to Morocco.

Since the Late-Neolithic, Aosta Valley, Piedmont, Liguria, Tuscany and Sardinia in particular were involved in the pan-Western European Megalithic phenomenon. Later, in the Bronze Age, megalithic structures were built also in Latium, Puglia and Sicily.

The latter region, about the end of the third millennium B.C. imported from Sardinia typical cultural aspects of Atlantic world, including the Culture of small dolmen-shaped structures that reached all over the Mediterranean basin.

A well-preserved natural mummy known as Ötzi the Iceman, determined to be 5,000 years old (between 3400 and 3100 BCE, Copper Age), was discovered in the Similaun glacier of South Tyrol in 1991.

While raised primarily as a source of meat, by 3000 BC domesticated animals were being exploited for traction (of plows and carts) and other product such as milk and wool. The making of wine and olive oil was learned from Greece by about that time.

Metallurgy also spread through the Mediterranean at this time, first of copper around 3000 BC, then bronze around 2300 BC. Use of the latter for weapons, armor, and other artifacts marks the beginning of the Bronze Age. Around 700 BC, the development of iron smelting and steelmaking marked the beginning of the Iron Age in the region.

During the Copper Age, at the same time that metalworking appeared, Indo-European people are believed to have migrated to Italy in several waves. Associated with this migration are the Rinaldone culture and Remedello culture in Northern Italy, and the Gaudo culture of Southern Italy.

These cultures were led by a warrior-aristocracy and are considered intrusive. Their Indo-European character is suggested by the presence of weapons in burials, the appearance of the horse in Italy at this time and material similarities with cultures of Central Europe.

The Remedello (4th and 3rd millennium BC), Rinaldone (4th and 3rd millennium BC) and Gaudo (4th and 3rd millennium BC) cultures are late Neolithic cultures of Italy, traces of which are primarily found in the present-day regions of Lombardy, Tuscany, Latium and Campania. They are sometimes described as Eneolithic cultures, due to their use of primitive copper tools.

Other important eneolithic cultures of the peninsula and the islands, often related to those previously mentioned, are the Laterza culture  or Laterza-Cellino San Marco culture (2950-2350 BC) in Apulia and Basilicata, the Abealzu-Filigosa culture (2700-2400 BC) in Sardinia, the Conelle-Ortucchio culture in Abruzzo and Marche, the Serraferlicchio culture in Sicily, and the Spilamberto group in Emilia-Romagna.

The earliest Statue menhirs, frequently depicting weapons, were erected by the populations of northern Italy and Sardinia during this period. This sculptural tradition of possible steppe origin (Yamna culture), lasted in some regions well into the Bronze Age and even into the Iron Age. The Beaker culture marks the transition between the Eneolitichic and the early Bronze Age.

The Early Bronze Age shows the beginning of a new culture in Northern Italy and is distinguished by the post-Beaker Polada culture (2200-1600 BC), the name for a culture of the ancient Bronze Age which spread primarily in the territory of modern-day Lombardy, Veneto and Trentino, characterized by settlements on pile-dwellings.

Polada settlements were mainly widespread in wetland locations such as around the large lakes and hills along the Alpine margin. The cities of Toppo Daguzzo and La Starza were known as the center of the Proto-Apennine stage of Palma Campania culture spread in southern Italy at this time.

The Middle Bronze Age known as the Apennine Bronze Age in Central and Southern Italy was the period when settlements were established both on lowland and upland areas. Hierarchy among the social groups were experienced during this period according to the tombs.

The two-tier grave found at Toppo Daguzzo is an example of elite groups growth. On the top level, nearly 10 fractured skeletons have been found without any grave objects, while at the lower level eleven burials were found accompanied by different valuable pieces: 6 males with bronze weapons, 4 females with beads and a child.

The Recent Bronze Age known as the Sub-Apennine period in Central Italy is a frame of time when sites relocated to defended locations. At this time settlement hierarchy obviously appeared in cities such as Latium and Tuscany.

The Final Bronze Age. During this period, the majority of the Italian peninsula was united in the Protovillanovan culture (1200–901 BC), which was part of the central European Urnfield culture system (c. 1300 BC – 750 BC).

Pianello di Genga is an exception to the small cemeteries characterized for the Protovillanovan culture. More than 500 burials were found in this cemetery which is known for its two centuries of usage by different communities.

Due to its central geographic location in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean, Italy has historically been home to myriad peoples and cultures. Various ancient peoples were dispersed throughout what is now modern-day Italy, the most predominant being the Indo-European Italic peoples who gave the peninsula its name.

The Ancient peoples of pre-Roman Italy – such as the Umbrians, the Latins (from which the Romans emerged), Volsci, Oscans, Samnites, Sabines, the Celts, the Ligures, the Veneti and many others – were Indo-European peoples, most of them specifically of the Italic group.

The main historic peoples of possible non-Indo-European or pre-Indo-European heritage include the Etruscans of central and northern Italy, the Elymians and the Sicani in Sicily, and the prehistoric Sardinians, who gave birth to the Nuragic civilisation.

Other ancient populations being of undetermined language families and of possible non-Indo-European origin include the Rhaetian people and Cammuni, known for their rock carvings in Valcamonica, the largest collections of prehistoric petroglyphs in the world.

In the classical era, Phoenicians and Carthaginians founded colonies mostly in insular Italy, Greeks established settlements in the so-called Magna Graecia of Southern Italy, while Etruscans and Celts inhabited central and northern Italy respectively.

An Italic tribe known as the Latins formed the Roman Kingdom in the 8th century BC, which eventually became a republic with a government of the Senate and the People.


The Beaker culture (2800–1800 BC) marks the transition between the Eneolitichic and the early Bronze Age. The Italian Peninsula’s most affected areas are the Po Valley, in particular the area of Lake Garda, and Tuscany. The bell-shaped vases appear in these areas of central and northern Italy as “foreign elements” integrated in the pre-existing Remedello and Rinaldone cultures.

The Bell Beaker culture or short Beaker culture, is an archaeological culture named after the inverted-bell beaker drinking vessel used at the very beginning of the European Bronze Age. Arising from around 2800 BC, and lasting in continental Europe until 2300 BC, succeeded by the Unetice culture, in Britain until as late as 1800 BC.

The culture was widely scattered throughout Western Europe, from various regions in Iberia and spots facing northern Africa to the Danubian plains, the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, and also the islands of Sicily and Sardinia.

The altar of Monte d’Accoddi, a massive stone structure that was probably an altar belonging to the Ozieri culture, fell out of use starting from c. 2000 BCE, when the Beaker culture, known from sites on the northwestern and southwestern coasts of Sicily, previously occupied by the Conca d’Oro culture, appeared on the island.

The beakers arrived in Sardinia from two different regions: firstly from Spain and southern France, and secondly from Central Europe, through the Italian Peninsula.

Bell Beaker people took advantage of transport by sea and rivers, creating a cultural spread extending from Ireland to the Carpathian Basin and south along the Atlantic coast and along the Rhône valley to Portugal, North Africa, and Sicily, even penetrating northern and central Italy.

The new international trade routes opened by the Beaker people became firmly established and the culture was succeeded by a number of Bronze Age cultures, among them the Únětice culture in Central Europe, the Elp culture and Hilversum culture in the Netherlands, the Atlantic Bronze Age in the British Isles and the Atlantic coast of Europe, and by the Nordic Bronze Age, a culture of Scandinavia and northernmost Germany–Poland.

Recently, the Únětice culture has been cited as a pan-European cultural phenomenon whose influence covered large areas due to intensive exchange, with Únětice pottery and bronze artefacts found from Ireland to Scandinavia, the Italian Peninsula, and the Balkans. As such, it is candidate for a late community connecting a continuum of already scattered North-West Indo-European languages ancestral to Italic, Celtic, and Germanic, and perhaps Balto-Slavic, where words were frequently exchanged and a common lexicon and certain regional isoglosses were shared.

A 2015 study published in Nature found the people of the Unetice culture to be closely genetically related to the Corded Ware culture, the Beaker culture and the Nordic Bronze Age (also Northern Bronze Age, or Scandinavian Bronze Age), a period of Scandinavian prehistory from c. 1700–500 BC.

In a 2015 study published in Nature, the Y-DNA of three males of the Unetice culture from Esperstedt, Germany and Eulau, Czech Republic, was analyzed. The two individuals of Esperstedt were found to be carrying the haplgroups I2c2 and I2a2, while the individual from Eulau carried haplogroup I2.

The study found that Unetice people, similarly to the contemporary Beaker people, had less ancestry from the Yamnaya culture than the earlier Corded Ware culture. The authors of the study took this to be a sign of a resurgence of the indigenous inhabitants of Western Europe in the aftermath of the Yamnaya expansion. However, European Late Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures such as Corded Ware, Bell Beakers, Unetice, and the Scandinavian cultures, are genetically very similar to each other.

In its early phase, the Bell Beaker culture can be seen as the western contemporary of the Corded Ware culture of Central Europe. From about 2400 BC, however, the “Beaker folk” expanded eastwards, into the Corded Ware horizon. In parts of Central and Eastern Europe – as far east as Poland – a sequence occurs from Corded Ware to Bell Beaker.

The Corded Ware culture shared a number of features with the Bell Beaker culture, derived from their common ancestor, the Yamna culture. These features include pottery decorated with cord impressions, single burial, and the shaft-hole axe.

A 2015 study by Allentoft et al. in Nature found the people of the Corded Ware culture to be closely genetically related to the Beaker culture, the Unetice culture and the Nordic Bronze Age. People of the Nordic Bronze Age and Corded Ware show the highest lactose tolerance among Bronze Age Europeans.

The study also found a close genetic relationship between the Corded Ware culture and the Sintashta culture, suggesting that the Sintashta culture emerged as a result on an eastward expansion of Corded Ware peoples. The Sintashta culture is in turn closely genetically related to the Andronovo culture, by which it was succeeded.

The Nordic Bronze Age emerged about 1700 BC through the fusion of the Battle Axe culture (2800-2300 BC), also called Boat Axe culture, a Chalcolithic culture which flourished in the coastal areas of the south of the Scandinavian Peninsula and southwest Finland, and the Pitted Ware culture.

The Battle Axe culture was an offshoot of the Corded Ware culture, and replaced the Funnelbeaker culture in southern Scandinavia, probably through a process of mass migration and population replacement.

The Battle Axe culture was an offshoot of the Corded Ware culture, and replaced the Funnelbeaker culture in southern Scandinavia, probably through a process of mass migration and population replacement. It is thought to have been responsible for spreading Indo-European languages and other elements of Indo-European culture to the region. It co-existed for a time with the hunter-gatherer Pitted Ware culture, which it eventually absorbed, developing into the Nordic Bronze Age.

The Nordic Bronze Age maintained close trade links with Mycenaean Greece, with whom it shares several striking similarities. Cultural similarities between the Nordic Bronze Age, the Sintastha/Andronovo culture and peoples of the Rigveda have also been detected. Some scholars also include sites in what is now Finland, Estonia, northern Germany and Pomerania as part of its cultural sphere.

The people of the Nordic Bronze Age were actively engaged in the export of amber, and imported metals in return, becoming expert metalworkers. With respects to the number and density of metal deposits, the Nordic Bronze Age became the richest culture in Europe during its existence. Around the 5th century BC, the Nordic Bronze Age was succeeded by the Pre-Roman Iron Age and the Jastorf culture. The Nordic Bronze Age is often considered ancestral to the Germanic peoples.

The Urnfield culture (1300-750 BC) was a late Bronze Age culture of central Europe, often divided into several local cultures within a broader Urnfield tradition. The name comes from the custom of cremating the dead and placing their ashes in urns which were then buried in fields.

Over much of Europe, the Urnfield culture followed the Tumulus culture (1600-1200 BC), which dominated Central Europe during the Middle Bronze Age, and was succeeded by the Hallstatt culture (1200-500 BC). Linguistic evidence and continuity with the following Hallstatt culture suggests that the people of this area spoke an early form of Celtic, perhaps originally proto-Celtic.

As the name implies, the Tumulus culture is distinguished by the practice of burying the dead beneath burial mounds (tumuli or kurgans). It was the descendant of the Unetice culture. Its heartland was the area previously occupied by the Unetice culture besides Bavaria and Württemberg.  


The Italic peoples were an Indo-European ethnolinguistic group identified by their use of Italic languages. Besides Latin, the known ancient Italic languages are Faliscan (the closest to Latin), Umbrian and Oscan (or Osco-Umbrian), and South Picene. It has also been proposed that the Lusitanian language may have belonged to the Italic family.

It is generally believed that those 1st millennium Italic languages descend from Indo-European languages brought by migrants to the peninsula sometime in the 2nd millennium BCE. However, the source of those migrations and the history of the languages in the peninsula are still the matter of debate among historians.

In particular, it is debated whether the ancient Italic languages all descended from a single Proto-Italic language after its arrival in the region, or whether the migrants brought two or more Indo-European languages that were only distantly related.

Based on glottochronological evidence, Proto-Italic is believed to have split off from the archaic western Proto-Indo-European dialects some time before 2500 BC. It was originally spoken by Italic tribes north of the Alps before they moved south into the Italian Peninsula during the second half of the 2nd millennium BCE. Linguistic evidence also points to early contacts with Celtic tribes and Proto-Germanic speakers.

Although an equation between archeological and linguistic evidence cannot be established with certainty, the Proto-Italic language is generally associated with the Terramare (1700–1150 BCE) and Villanovan cultures (900–700 BCE).

In the first millennium BCE, several (other) non-Italic languages were spoken in the peninsula, including members of other branches of Indo-European (such as Celtic and Greek) as well as at least one non-Indo-European one, Etruscan.

Other Indo-European languages once spoken in the peninsula, whose inclusion in the Italic branch is disputed, are Aequian, Vestinian, Venetic and Sicel. These long-extinct languages are known only from inscriptions in archaeological finds.

The largest language in southern Italy, except Ionic Greek spoken in the Greek colonies, was Messapian, also known as Iapygian, an extinct Indo-European language of the southeastern Italian Peninsula, once spoken in Apulia by the three Iapygian tribes of the region: the Messapians, the Peucetians and the Daunians.

The Iapyges have uncertain origins, although ancient authors and archeological evidence suggest that could have descended from Illyrian tribes, a group of Indo-European tribes in antiquity, who inhabited part of the western Balkans, that migrated to southeastern Italy in the early first millennium BCE.

However, the evidence of Illyrian inscriptions is reduced to personal names and places, which makes it difficult to support such a hypothesis. The term “Illyrians” last appears in the historical record in the 7th century, referring to a Byzantine garrison operating within the former Roman province of Illyricum.

At the start of the Iron Age, around 700 BC, Ionian Greek settlers from Euboea established colonies along the coast of southern Italy. They brought with them the alphabet, which they had learned from the Phoenicians; specifically, what we now call Western Greek alphabet.

The invention quickly spread through the whole peninsula, across language and political barriers. Local adaptations (mainly minor letter shape changes and the dropping or addition of a few letters) yielded several Old Italic alphabets.

The inscriptions show that, by 700 BC, many languages were spoken in the region, including members of several branches of Indo-European and several non-Indo-European languages. The most important of the latter was Etruscan, attested by evidence from more than 10,000 inscriptions and some short texts.

No relation has been found between Etruscan and any other known language, and there is still no clue about its possible origin (except for inscriptions on the island of Lemnos in the eastern Mediterranean).

Other possibly non-Indo-European languages present at the time were Rhaetian in the Alpine region, Ligurian around present-day Genoa, and some unidentified language(s) in Sardinia. Those languages have left some detectable imprint in Latin.

Outside of the specialised linguistic literature, the term is also used to describe all of the ancient peoples of Italy including pre-Roman peoples like the Etruscans and the Raetians, who did not speak Indo-European languages. Such use is improper in liguistics, but common in ancient and modern historiography.

Latins achieved a dominant position among these tribes, establishing ancient Roman civilization. Latin became the official language of the Roman Empire, which conquered the other Italic peoples before the common era.

As the Roman Republic extended its political dominion over the whole of the Italian peninsula, Latin became dominant over the other Italic languages, which ceased to be spoken perhaps sometime in the 1st century AD.

Between the third and eighth centuries CE, Vulgar Latin (perhaps influenced by language-shift from the other Italic languages) diversified into the Romance languages, which are the only Italic languages natively spoken today.

From Vulgar Latin, or Sermo Vulgaris (“common speech”), also Colloquial Latin, or Common Romance (particularly in the late stage), a range of non-standard sociolects of Latin spoken in the Mediterranean region during and after the classical period of the Roman Empire, the Romance languages emerged.

The Latin language gradually spread beyond Rome, along with the growth of the power of this state, displacing, beginning in the 4th and 3rd centuries BC, the languages of other Italic tribes, as well as Illyrian, Messapian and Venetic, etc.

During this development, other Italic tribes adopted Latin language and culture in a process known as Romanization. The other Italic languages became extinct in the first centuries CE as their speakers were assimilated into the Roman Empire and shifted to some form of Latin. This process was eventually extended to much of Europe. The ethnic groups which emerged as a result are known as Romance peoples.

The Romanisation of the Italian Peninsula was basically complete by the 1st century BC; except for the south of Italy and Sicily, where the dominance of Greek was preserved. The attribution of Ligurian is controversial.

The period of late Latin (2nd to 6th centuries) is characterised by a gap between written and folk-spoken language: the regional differentiation of the people’s Latin was accelerated, the formation of Romance languages, finally separated by the 9th century, began on its basis.

Written Latin continued to be used for a long time in the administrative sphere, religion, diplomacy, trade, school, medicine, science, literature, and remains the language of the Catholic Church and the official language of the Vatican City.

Origin theories

The main debate concerning the origin of the Italic languages mirrors that on the origins of the Greek ones, except that there is no record of any “early Italic” to play the role of Mycenaean Greek.

All we know about the linguistic landscape of Italy is from inscriptions made after the introduction of the alphabet in the peninsula, around 700 BC onwards, and from Greek and Roman writers several centuries later.

The oldest known samples come from Umbrian and Faliscan inscriptions from the 7th century BC. Their alphabets were clearly derived from the Etruscan alphabet, which was derived from the Western Greek alphabet not much earlier than that. There is no reliable information about the languages spoken before that time. Some conjectures can be made based on toponyms, but they cannot be verified.

There is no guarantee that the intermediate phases between those old Italic languages and Indo-European will be found. The question of whether Italic originated outside Italy or developed by assimilation of Indo-European and other elements within Italy, approximately on or within its current range there, remains.

An extreme view of some linguists and historians is that there is no such thing as “the Italic branch” of Indo-European. Namely, there never was a unique “Proto-Italic”, whose diversification resulted in those languages.

Some linguists, like Silvestri and Rix, further argue that no common Proto-Italic can be reconstructed such that (1) its phonological system may have developed into those of Latin and Osco-Umbrian through consistent phonetic changes, and (2) its phonology and morphology can be consistently derived from those of Proto-Indo-European. However, Rix later changed his mind and became an outspoken supporter of Italic as a family.

Those linguists propose instead that the ancestors of the 1st millennium Indo-European languages of Italy were two or more different languages, that separately descended from Indo-European in a more remote past, and separately entered Europe, possibly by different routes and/or in different epochs.

That view stems in part from the difficulty in identifying a common Italic homeland in prehistory, or reconstructing an ancestral “Common Italic” or “Proto-Italic” language from which those languages could have descended. Some common features that seem to connect the languages may be just a sprachbund phenomenon — a linguistic convergence due to contact over a long period, as in the Italo-Celtic theory.

Bakkum defines Proto-Italic as a “chronological stage” without an independent development of its own, but extending over late Proto-Indo-European and the initial stages of Proto-Latin and Proto-Sabellic. Meiser’s dates of 4000 BC to 1800 BC, well before Mycenaean Greek, are described by him as “as good a guess as anyone’s”.


Sardinia is one of the most geologically ancient bodies of land in Europe. The island was populated in various waves of immigration from prehistory until recent times. The first people to settle in Sardinia during the Upper Paleolithic and the Mesolithic came from Continental Europe.

The Paleolithic colonization of the island is demonstrated by the evidences in Oliena’s Corbeddu Cave; in the Mesolithic some populations, particularly from present-day Tyrrhenian coast of Italy, managed to move to northern Sardinia via Corsica. The Neolithic Revolution was introduced in the 6th millennium BC by the Cardial culture coming from the Italian Peninsula.

In the mid-Neolithic period, the Ozieri culture, probably of Aegean origin, flourished on the island spreading the hypogeum tombs known as domus de Janas, while the Arzachena culture of Gallura built the first megaliths: circular tombs. In the early 3rd millennium BC, the metallurgy of copper and silver began to develop.

During the late Chalcolithic, the so-called Beaker culture, coming from various parts of Continental Europe, appeared in Sardinia. These new people predominantly settled on the west coast, where the majority of the sites attributed to them had been found.

The Beaker culture was followed in the early Bronze Age by the Bonnanaro culture which showed both reminiscences of the Beaker and influences by the post-Beaker  Polada culture (22nd to 16th centuries BC), the name for a culture of the ancient Bronze Age which spread primarily in the territory of modern-day Lombardy, Veneto and Trentino, characterized by settlements on pile-dwellings.

As time passed, the different Sardinian populations appear to have become united in customs, yet remained politically divided into various small, tribal groupings, at times banding together against invading forces from the sea, and at others waging war against each other. Habitations consisted of round thatched stone huts.

Located in Sardinia (with ramifications in southern Corsica), the Nuragic civilization lasted from the early Bronze Age (1800 BC – 200 AD). It takes its name from the characteristic Nuraghe. The nuraghe towers are unanimously considered the best-preserved and largest megalithic remains in Europe. Their effective use is still debated; while most scholars considered them as fortresses, others see them as temples.

The Nuragic civilization evolved during the Bonnanaro period from the preexisting megalithic cultures that built dolmens, menhirs, more than 2400 Domus de Janas and also the imponent altar of Monte d’Accoddi, until the island was already Romanized.

A warrior and mariner people, the ancient Sardinians held flourishing trades with the other Mediterranean peoples. This is shown by numerous remains contained in the nuraghe, such as amber coming from the Baltic Sea, small bronze figures portraying African beasts, Oxhide ingots and weapons from Eastern Mediterranean, Mycenaean ceramics.

It has been hypothesized that the ancient Sardinians, or part of them, could be identified with the Sherden (Egyptian: šrdn, šꜣrdꜣnꜣ or šꜣrdynꜣ, Ugaritic: šrdnn(m) and trtn(m), possibly Akkadian: še–er–ta–an–nu; also glossed “Shardana” or “Sherdanu”).

The Sherden was one of the so-called Sea Peoples who appear in fragmentary historical and iconographic records, (ancient Egyptian and Ugaritic) from the eastern Mediterranean in the late second millennium BC. The Sea People attacked ancient Egypt and other regions of eastern Mediterranean.

On reliefs they are shown carrying round shields and spears, dirks, or swords, perhaps of Naue II type. In some cases they are shown wearing corselets and kilts, but their key distinguishing feature is a horned helmet which, in all cases but three, features a circular accouterment at the crest.

At Medinet Habu the corselet appears similar to that worn by the Philistines. The Sherden sword, it has been suggested by archaeologists since James Henry Breasted, may have developed from an enlargement of European daggers, and been associated with the exploitation of Bohemian tin.

Other original elements of the Sardinian civilization include the temples known as “Holy wells”, dedicated to the cult of the holy waters, the Giants’ graves, the Megaron temples, several structures for juridical and leisure functions and numerous bronze statuettes, which were discovered even in Etruscan tombs, suggesting a strong relationships between the two peoples.

Another important element of this civilization are the Giants of Mont’e Prama, ancient stone sculptures created by the Nuragic civilization of Sardinia and perhaps the oldest anthropomorphic statues of the western Mediterranean sea.


The Terramare was a Middle and Recent Bronze Age culture, between the 16th and the 12th centuries B.C., in the area of what is now Pianura Padana (specially along the Panaro river, between Modena and Bologna). Their total population probably reached an impressive peak of more than 120,000 individuals near the beginning of the Recent Bronze Age.

In the early period they lived in villages with an average population of about 130 people living in wooden stilt houses: they had a square shape, built on land but generally near a stream, with roads that crossed each other at right angles.

Over the lifetime of the Terramare culture, these settlements developed into stratified zones with larger settlements of up to 15-20Ha (approximately 1500-2000 people) surrounded by smaller villages. Especially in the later period, the proportion of settlements that were fortified approaches 100%.

It has been suggested that the Terramare of Emilia acted as stores and starting points for trades of the Baltic amber and the tin from Erzgebirge through the Val Camonica and the Po River, towards the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and Greece.

Around the 12th century BC the Terramare system collapsed, the settlements were abandoned and the populations moved southward, where they mingled with the Apennine culture, a technology complex in central and southern Italy from the Italian Middle Bronze Age (15th-14th centuries BC).

The influence of this population abandoning the Po valley and moving south may have formed the basis of the Tyrrhenian culture, ultimately leading to the historic Etruscans, based on a surprising level of correspondence between archeological evidence and early legends recorded by the Greeks.

There are three main hypotheses as to the origins of the Etruscan civilization in the Early Iron Age. The first is autochthonous development in situ out of the Villanovan culture, as claimed by the Greek historian Dionysius of Halicarnassus who described the Etruscans as indigenous people who had always lived in Etruria.

The second is a migration from the Aegean sea, as claimed by two Greek historians: Herodotus, who described them as a group of immigrants from Lydia in Anatolia, and Hellanicus of Lesbos who claimed that the Tyrrhenians were the Pelasgians originally from Thessaly, Greece, who entered Italy at the head of the Adriatic sea.

The third hypotheses was reported by Livy and Pliny the Elder, and puts the Etruscans in the context of the Rhaetian people to the north and other populations living in the Alps.

Bronze Age

According to David W. Anthony, between 3100–3000 BCE, a massive migration of Indo-Europeans from the Yamnaya culture took place into the Danube Valley. Thousands of kurgans are attributed to this event. These migrations probably split off Pre-Italic, Pre-Celtic and Pre-Germanic from Proto-Indo-European. By this time the Anatolian peoples and the Tocharians had already split off from other Indo-Europeans.

Hydronymy shows that the Proto-Germanic homeland was in Central Germany, which would be very close to the homeland of Italic and Celtic languages as well. The origin of a hypothetical ancestral “Italo-Celtic” people is to be found in today’s eastern Hungary, settled around 3100 BCE by the Yamnaya culture.

This hypothesis is to some extent supported by the observation that Italic shares a large number of isoglosses and lexical terms with Celtic and Germanic, some of which are more likely to be attributed to the Bronze Age.

In particular, using Bayesian phylogenetic methods, Russell Gray and Quentin Atkinson argued that Proto-Italic speakers separated from Proto-Germanics 5500 years before present, i.e. roughly at the start of the Bronze Age. This is further confirmed by the fact that the Germanic language family shares more vocabulary with the Italic family than with the Celtic language family.

From the late third to the early second millennium BCE, tribes coming both from the north and from Franco-Iberia brought the Beaker culture and the use of bronze smithing, to the Po Valley, to Tuscany and to the coasts of Sardinia and Sicily.

The Beakers could have been the link which brought the Yamnaya dialects from Hungary to Austria and Bavaria. These dialects might then have developed into Proto-Celtic. The arrival of Indo-Europeans into Italy is in some sources ascribed to the Beakers. A migration across the Alps from East-Central Europe by Italic tribes is thought to have occurred around 1800 BCE.

In the mid-second millennium BCE, the Terramare culture developed in the Po Valley. The Terramare culture takes its name from the black earth (terra marna) residue of settlement mounds, which have long served the fertilizing needs of local farmers.

These people were still hunters, but had domesticated animals; they were fairly skillful metallurgists, casting bronze in moulds of stone and clay, and they were also agriculturists, cultivating beans, the vine, wheat and flax. The Latino-Faliscan people have been associated with this culture, especially by the archaeologist Luigi Pigorini.

Late Bronze Age

The Urnfield culture might have brought proto-Italic people from among the “Italo-Celtic” tribes who remained in Hungary into Italy. These tribes are thought to have penetrated Italy from the east during the late second millennium BC through the Proto-Villanovan culture. They later crossed the Apennine Mountains and settled central Italy, including Latium.

Before 1000 BCE several Italic tribes had probably entered Italy. These divided into various groups and gradually came to occupy central Italy and southern Italy. This period was characterized by widespread upheaval in the Mediterranean, including the emergence of the Sea Peoples and the Late Bronze Age collapse.

The Proto-Villanovan culture dominated the peninsula and replaced the preceding Apennine culture. The Proto-Villanovans practiced cremation and buried the ashes of their dead in pottery urns of a distinctive double-cone shape.

Generally speaking, Proto-Villanovan settlements have been found in almost the whole Italian peninsula from Veneto to eastern Sicily, although they were most numerous in the northern-central part of Italy.

The most important settlements excavated are those of Frattesina in Veneto region, Bismantova in Emilia-Romagna and near the Monti della Tolfa, north of Rome. The Latino-Faliscans, the Veneti, and possibly the Osco-Umbrians too, have been associated with this culture.

In the 13th century BCE, Proto-Celts (probably the ancestors of the Lepontii people), coming from the area of modern-day Switzerland, eastern France and south-western Germany (RSFO Urnfield group), entered Northern Italy (Lombardy and eastern Piedmont), starting the Canegrate culture, who not long time after, merging with the indigenous Ligurians, produced the mixed Golasecca culture.

Iron Age

In the early Iron Age, the relatively homogeneous Proto-Villanovan culture (1200-900 BCE), closely associated with the Celtic Halstatt culture of Alpine Austria, characterised by the introduction of iron-working and the practice of cremation coupled with the burial of ashes in distinctive pottery, shows a process of fragmentation and regionalisation.

In Tuscany and in part of Emilia-Romagna, Latium and Campania, the Proto-Villanovan culture was followed by the Villanovan culture. The earliest remains of Villanovan culture date back to circa 900 BCE.

In the region south of the Tiber (Latium Vetus), the Latial culture of the Latins emerged, while in the north-east of the peninsula the Este culture of the Veneti appeared. Roughly in the same period, from their core area in central Italy (modern-day Umbria and Sabina region), the Osco-Umbrians began to emigrate in various waves, through the process of Ver sacrum, the ritualized extension of colonies, in southern Latium, Molise and the whole southern half of the peninsula, replacing the previous tribes, such as the Opici and the Oenotrians.

This corresponds with the emergence of the Terni culture, which had strong similarities with the Celtic cultures of Hallstatt and La Tène. The Umbrian necropolis of Terni, which dates back to the 10th century BCE, was identical in every aspect to the Celtic necropolis of the Golasecca culture.


By the mid-first millennium BCE, the Latins of Rome were growing in power and influence. This led to the establishment of ancient Roman civilization. In order to combat the non-Italic Etruscans, several Italic tribes united in the Latin League.

After the Latins had liberated themselves from Etruscan rule they acquired a dominant position among the Italic tribes. Frequent conflict between various Italic tribes followed. The best documented of these are the wars between the Latins and the Samnites.

The Latins eventually succeeded in unifying the Italic elements in the country. Many non-Latin Italic tribes adopted Latin culture and acquired Roman citizenship. During this time Italic colonies were established throughout the country, and non-Italic elements eventually adopted the Latin language and culture in a process known as Romanization.

In the early first century BCE, several Italic tribes, in particular the Marsi and the Samnites, rebelled against Roman rule. This conflict is called the Social War. After Roman victory was secured, all peoples in Italy, except for the Celts of the Po Valley, were granted Roman citizenship.

In the subsequent centuries, Italic tribes adopted Latin language and culture in a process known as Romanization. This process was eventually extended to much of Europe. The ethnic groups which emerged as a result are known as Romance peoples.

Rinaldone culture

The Rinaldone culture was an Eneolithic culture that spread between the 4rd and the 3rd millennium BC in northern and central Lazio, in southern Tuscany and, to a lesser extent, also in Marche and Umbria. It takes its name from the town of Rinaldone, near Montefiascone in the province of Viterbo, northern Lazio.

The Rinaldone culture developed between 3700 and 2100 BC in the centre of the Italian peninsula. It therefore covers most of the Chalcolithic, referred to here as Eneolithic. It was defined in 1939 by Italian archeologist Pia Laviosa Zambotti based, among other things, on the characteristics of the Rinaldone necropolis in the region of Viterbo.

The original definition of this culture has, of course, evolved since 1939. Many researchers now describe it as a facies and even a funeral facies. Even today, it is still documented almost exclusively by funeral sites.

The definition of this culture (or facies) is problematic since it is based only on very limited elements and rarely specific to this region and this period, for example a particular type of vase which, in fact, is only present in part of the tombs.

Typical objects of this culture are the flask-shaped jars, decorative elements such as antimony necklace, bone beads, steatite pendants and a considerable number of weapons including mallet heads, arrowheads, spears and daggers.

One of the most famous funerary contexts belonging to this culture is the so-called “widow’s tomb” discovered in 1951 in Ponte San Pietro, near Ischia di Castro. It contains the remains of a 30-year-old man of high rank, with a rich collection of pottery and weapons, and a young woman with a much more modest outfit, who was probably sacrificed to be buried with her husband.

Until the 1990s, there was almost no clear carbon-14 dating attributable to this culture. The situation has since evolved, in particular thanks to the numerous dates carried out on the burials of the Selvicciola necropolis in the north of Lazio.

This culture begins around 3700 BC and ends around 2100 BC. Its duration is therefore exceptionally long. It is still too early to propose internal subdivisions. The axes are distinguished by a different composition from other objects.

The sites attributable to the Rinaldone culture are mainly located in the north and centre of Lazio, in the south and centre of Tuscany and to a lesser extent in Umbria. However, contrary to what was initially assumed there are also sites south of the Tiber, especially in the region of Rome.

It is also proven from the beginning its development in the region of Marche, but in this region, the characteristic fiascoes of this culture are rare and quickly the entire eastern part of the Apennines seems to be undergoing autonomous cultural development. It appears punctually as far as Abruzzo.

In the most recent phase, it even seems to extend southwards to Lazio where it replaces the Gaudo culture. However, the borders with other cultures are particularly blurred. In central Lazio, the Rinaldone culture coexists alongside the Gaudo culture and Ortucchio culture between 3130 and 2870 BC and even beyond.

The influences of the Rinaldone culture beyond its main development area are visible in the presence of objects inspired or directly derived from it. Metal objects can be found in the south of France, probably of Italian origin, as in Fontaine-le-Puits in Savoie.

Several copper daggers supposedly of Rinaldone origin have even been discovered in Switzerland. According to some researchers, the culture of Rinaldone was at the origin of the development of the metallurgy in the south of France.

There are strong similarities between the latter and the metallurgical practices attested to at Cabrières in Hérault. However, this hypothesis is discussed due to the lack of data on possible relays between central Italy and southern France.

On the other hand, Rinaldone’s culture is not impervious to external influences. There is even a facies derived from this culture in Tuscany that bears the name of the cave in which it was identified, the facies of Sassi Neri.

In the eponymous site but also in neighbouring sites such as the Fontino cave near Grosseto and the San Giuseppe cave in Elba Island, the objects, especially the vases, have characteristics that bring them closer to the cultures of Rinaldone, Gaudo Culture and Laterza Culture. Relationships between Rinaldone’s and Gaudo’s culture are also visible in the Rome region. In a tomb in Tenuta della Selcetta 2 vases of both cultures are associated.

Similarly, in Osteria del Curato-Via Cinquefrondi, in a necropolis Laterza Culture-Ortucchio Culture, a female tomb containing Rinaldone, Laterza and Gaudo ceramics has been exhumed. In addition, the structure of the tombs, the funeral ritual and the presence in both cases of long arrowheads bring the cultures of Rinaldone and Gaudo closer together.

However, these mutual influences remain generally rare and limited to rather general aspects. This relative closure of Rinaldone’s culture to external influences is particularly visible during the development of the Bell Beaker around 2600 BC. Outside the necropolis of Fontanile di Raim in northern Lazio. where the two cultures seem to mix, there are generally sites whose furniture refers entirely to one or the other.

Remedello culture

The Remedello culture (Italian Cultura di Remedello) developed during the Copper Age (4th and 3rd millennium BC) in Northern Italy, particularly in the area of the Po valley. The name comes from the town of Remedello (Brescia) where several burials were discovered in the late 19th century.

The first burials were discovered in the winter of 1884, the excavations were initiated by Gaetano Chierici, but, as a result of the low temperatures, he fell ill and died. The excavations continued under the direction of Giovanni Bandieri, who moved the relics to the Museum of Reggio Emilia.

The Copper Age graves contained a single body in a crouching or supine position with the head facing north-west. The male set was represented by arrows, stone daggers and polished stone axes, among the tombs few are those with axes and daggers or ornaments made of copper. The female burials are accompanied by ceramic vessels or (in rare occasions) ornaments. The graves of children contained simple kits of flint stone.

Among the found items noteworthy is the presence of extremely accurate works in flint stone as axes and other weapons, objects in copper and arsenical silver (arms, pins, pectorals, bracelets), all of them characterized by decorative elements of eastern origin.

In a 2015 study published in Nature, the remains of three individuals ascribed to the Remedello culture were analyzed. All of them were determined to belong to haplogroup I. Although most of the discovered tombs date to the Chalcolithic, burials from the Bronze Age and the Iron Age have also been recovered.

The Remedello culture has been recently periodized by scholars into two distinct historical periods both dating back to the Copper Age. Remedello I : 3400 / 3200 BC – 2800 BC, or ancient Copper Age stage; Remedello II: 2900 / 2800 BC – 2400 BC, or full Copper Age stage.


Terramare, Terramara, or Terremare is a technology complex mainly of the central Po valley, in Emilia-Romagna, Northern Italy, dating to the Middle and Late Bronze Age c. 1700–1150 BC. It takes its name from the “black earth” residue of settlement mounds. Terramare is from terra marna, “marl-earth”, where marl is a lacustrine deposit.

It may be any color but in agricultural lands it is most typically black, giving rise to the “black earth” identification of it. The population of the terramare sites is called the terramaricoli. The sites were excavated exhaustively in 1860–1910.

These sites prior to the second half of the 19th century were commonly believed to have been used for Gallic and Roman sepulchral rites. They were called terramare and marnier by the farmers of the region, who mined the soil for fertilizer.

Scientific study began with Bartolomeo Gastaldi in 1860. He was investigating peat bogs and old lake sites in north Italy but did some investigations of the marnier, recognizing them finally as habitation, not funerary, sites similar to the pile dwellings further north.

His studies attracted the attention of Pellegrino Strobel and his 18-year-old assistant, Luigi Pigorini. In 1862 they wrote a piece concerning the Castione di Marchesi in Parma, a terramare site. They were the first to perceive that the settlements were prehistoric.

Starting from Gaetano Chierici’s theory that the pile dwellings further north represented an ancestral Roman population, Pigorini developed a theory of Indo-European settlement of Italy from the north.

The Terramare, in spite of local differences, is of typical form; each settlement is trapezoidal, with streets arranged in a quadrangular pattern. Some houses are built upon piles even though the village is entirely on dry land and some are not.

There is currently no commonly accepted explanation for the piles. The whole is protected by an earthwork strengthened on the inside by buttresses, and encircled by a wide moat supplied with running water. In all over 60 villages are known, almost entirely from Emilia.

In the Middle Bronze Age they are no larger than 2 ha (4.9 acres) placed at an average density of 1 per 25 km2 (9.7 sq mi). In the Late Bronze Age many sites have been abandoned and the ones that were not are larger, up to 60 ha (150 acres).

The remains discovered may be briefly summarized. Stone objects are few. Of bronze (the chief material) axes, daggers, swords, razors, and knives are found, as also minor implements, such as sickles, needles, pins, brooches, etc. Also remarkable is the finding of a large number of stone moulds, needed to obtain the bronze objects.

There are also objects of bone and wood, besides pottery (both coarse and fine), amber, and glass paste. Small clay figures, chiefly of animals (though human figures are found at Castellazzo), are interesting as being practically the earliest specimens of plastic art found in Italy.

The occupations of the terramare people as compared with their Neolithic predecessors may be inferred with comparative certainty. They remained hunters, but also had domesticated animals; they were fairly skilful metallurgists, casting bronze in moulds of stone and clay; they were also agriculturists, cultivating beans, grapes, wheat, and flax.

According to William Ridgeway the dead were treated to inhumation: further investigation, however, of the cemeteries shows that both inhumation and cremation were practiced, with cremated remains placed in ossuaries; practically no objects were found in the urns. Cremation may have been a later introduction.

For the early phases of the Middle Bronze Age it is plausible to think of the Terramare in terms of a polycentric settlement system, with apparently no substantial differences between one village and another. The density of dwellings rose, and in the MB2 (1550–1450 BC) is worthy of note.

There are areas, coinciding with those that have been most extensively investigated, in which the inhabited settlements in this phase are no more than 2 kilometres one from the other.

It can therefore be supposed that the entire territory was occupied by a tight-knit network of villages, a polycentric system with settlements generally covering between 1 and 2 hectares and occupied by up to 250/260 inhabitants (about 125 per hectare).

At that point, the dimension of the settlements began to vary. Until the MB2, their size did not normally exceed two hectares, but during the MB3 (1450–1350 BC), there was a substantial increase in the surface area occupied by certain of these settlements, while others remained limited in size or disappeared altogether.

This tendency was consolidated in the LBA. Several of these settlements cover an area of up to 20 hectares. The size of the embankments and ditches can reach remarkable proportions, some exceeding 30 metres in width.

For the more advanced phase of the Middle Bronze Age, and above all during the Late Bronze Age (1350–1150 BC), we can hypothesise a greater degree of diversified territorial organisation, including centres which are larger and tending towards hegemony, adjacent to smaller sites.

In certain areas during the LBA, we see a higher frequency of sites occupying a larger extension and a scant presence of small-size settlements, perhaps due to a marked tendency towards concentration of population.

This trend seems to be accentuated during the advanced LBA, when the overall number of settlements decreases, with a tendency towards concentration in larger-size settlements and probable subordination of the smaller settlements to the larger ones.

Around 1200 BC a serious crisis began for the terramare culture that within a few years led to the abandonment of all the settlements; the reasons for this crisis, roughly contemporaneous with the Late Bronze Age collapse in the eastern Mediterranean, are still not entirely clear, it seems possible that in the face of an incipient overpopulation (between 150,000 and 200,000 individuals were calculated) and depletion of natural resources, a series of drought periods led to a deep economic crisis, famine, and consequently the disruption of the political order, which caused the collapse of society.

Around 1150 BC the terramare were completely abandoned, with no settlements replacing them. The plains, especially in the area of Emilia, were abandoned for several centuries, and only in the Roman era they regain the density of population reached during the terramare period.

It has been suggested that the memory of the fate of the terramare culture may have lasted for centuries, until it was recorded by Dionysius of Halicarnassus, in his first book on the Roman Antiquities, as the fate of the Pelasgians.

In his record the Pelasgians occupied the Po Valley up to two generations before the Trojan War, but were forced, by a series of famines of which they could not understand the reason, or find a solution, to leave their once-fertile land and move to the south, where they merged with the Aborigines.

Great differences of opinion have arisen as to the origin and ethnographic relations of the Terramare population. Edoardo Brizio, in his Epoca preistorica (1898), advanced a theory that the Terramare population had been the original Ligurians.

Brizio believed that the Ligures, at some early point, took to erecting pile dwellings, although why they should have abandoned their previously unprotected hut-settlements for elaborate fortifications is unclear.

While Brizio did not envision invading peoples until long after the Terramare period, the pile dwellings, ramparts and moats at Terramare sites have usually seemed more akin to military defenses, than the prevention of inundation during regular flooding; for instance, Terramare buildings usually stood on hills. There are other difficulties of a similar character with Brizio’s theory.

Luigi Pigorini (1842–1925) proposed that a population derived from the Terramare culture was a dominant component of the Proto-Villanovan culture – especially in its northern and Campanian phases and the Terramare culture has been an Indo-European-speaking population, the ancestors of the Italici, i.e. the Italic-speaking peoples. Pigorini also attributed to the Italici a tradition of lake dwellings, modified in Italy into Terramare-style pile dwelling on dry land.

More recently, Italian archeologist Andrea Cardarelli has proposed re-evaluations of contemporaneous Greek accounts, such as that of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, and to link the Terramare culture to the Pelasgians – whom the Greeks generally equated with the Tyrrhenians and specifically, therefore, the Etruscans.

Villanovan culture

The Villanovan culture (c. 900–700 BC), regarded as the oldest phase of Etruscan civilization, was the earliest Iron Age culture of Central Italy and Northern Italy. It directly followed the Bronze Age Proto-Villanovan culture which branched off from the Urnfield culture of Central Europe. This gave way in the 7th century BC to an increasingly orientalizing culture influenced by Greek traders and colonists who settled in South Italy.

The Villanovans introduced iron-working to the Italian Peninsula. They practiced cremation and buried the ashes of their dead in pottery urns of distinctive double-cone shape.

The name Villanovan of the early phases of the Etruscan civilization comes from the site of the first archaeological finds relating to this advanced culture, which were remnants of a cemetery found near Villanova (Castenaso, 12 kilometres south-east of Bologna) in northern Italy.

The excavation lasting from 1853 to 1855 was done by the scholar and site owner, count Giovanni Gozzadini, and involved 193 tombs, six of which were separated from the rest as if to signify a special social status. The “well tomb” pit graves lined with stones contained funerary urns.

These had been only sporadically plundered and most were untouched. In 1893, a chance discovery unearthed another distinctive Villanovan necropolis at Verucchio overlooking the Adriatic coastal plain.

The burial characteristics relate the Villanovan culture to the Central European Urnfield culture (c. 1300–750 BC) and Celtic Hallstatt culture that succeeded the Urnfield culture. It is not possible to tell these apart in their earlier stages. Cremated remains were placed in cinerary urns, specifically in biconical urns and then buried. The urns were a form of Villanovan pottery known as impasto.

A custom believed to originate with the Villanovan culture is the usage of hut-shaped urns, which were cinerary urns fashioned like the huts in which the villagers lived. Typical sgraffito decorations of swastikas, meanders, and squares were scratched with a comb-like tool. Urns were accompanied by simple bronze fibulae, razors and rings.

The Villanovan culture is broadly divided into Villanovan I from c. 960 BC to c. 801 BC and the Villanovan II from c. 800 BC to 720 BC. The later phase (Villanovan II) saw radical changes, evidence of contact with Hellenic civilization and trade with the north along the Amber Road. This evidence takes the form glass and amber necklaces for women, armor and horse harness fittings of bronze, and the development of elite graves in contrast to the earlier egalitarian culture.

Chamber tombs and inhumation (burial) practices were developed side-by-side with the earlier cremation practices. With the last phase of Villanovan II the Etruscans, in particular Southern Etruria, entered the Orientalizing period. The northernmost areas of the Etruscan world, such as Etruria Padana, continued in their development as Villanovan III (750–680 BC) and Villanovan IV (680–540 BC).

The metalwork quality found in bronze and pottery demonstrate the skill of the Villanovan artisans. Some grave goods from burial sites display an even higher quality, suggesting the development of societal elites within Villanovan culture.

Tools and items were placed in graves suggesting a belief in an afterlife. Men’s graves contained weapons, armor, while those for women included weaving tools. A few graves switched or mixed these, indicating the possibility that some women employed tools and that some men made clothing. 

During the Villanovan period Etruscans traded with other states from the Mediterranean such as Greeks, Balkans, and Sardinia. Trade brought about advancement in metallurgy, and Greek presence influenced Villanovan pottery.

Buildings were rectangular in shape. The people lived in small huts, made of wattle and daub with wooden poles for support. Within the huts, cooking stands, utensils and charred animal bones give evidence about the family life of early inhabitants in Italy. Some huts contained large pottery jars for food storage sunk into their floors. There was also a rock cut drain to channel rainwater to communal reservoirs.

Generally speaking, Villanovan settlements were centered in the Adriatic Etruria, in Emilia Romagna (in particular, in Bologna and in Verucchio, near Rimini), in Marche (Fermo), and in the Tyrrhenian Etruria, in Tuscany and Lazio.

Further south, Villanovan cremation burials are to be found in Campania, at Capua, at the “princely tombs” of Pontecagnano near Salerno, at Capo di Fiume, at Vallo di Diano and at Sala Consilina.

Small scattered Villanovan settlements have left few traces other than their more permanent burial sites, which were set somewhat apart from the settlements—largely because the settlement sites were built over in Etruscan times. Modern opinion generally follows Massimo Pallottino in regarding the Villanovan culture as ancestral to the Etruscan civilization.

Prehistoric Italy

Ancient Italic peoples


Etruscan civilization

Magna Graecia

Roman kingdom

Italic peoples

Italic languages

Neolithic Italy

Polada culture

Apennine culture


Castellieri culture

Canegrate culture

Proto-Villanovan culture

Luco-Meluno culture

Villanova culture

Latial culture

Este culture

Golasecca culture

Fritzens-Sanzeno culture


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