The Info List - Prehistoric Italy

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Timeline Italy

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


1 Paleolithic 2 Neolithic 3 Copper Age 4 Bronze Age

4.1 Polada culture 4.2 Nuragic civilization 4.3 Sicily 4.4 Palma Campania
culture 4.5 Apennine culture 4.6 Terramare 4.7 Castellieri 4.8 Canegrate
culture 4.9 Proto-Villanovan culture 4.10 Luco-Meluno culture

5 Iron Age

5.1 Villanova culture 5.2 Latial culture 5.3 Este culture 5.4 Golasecca culture 5.5 Fritzens-Sanzeno culture 5.6 The Camuni

6 Pre-Roman period 7 See also 8 Notes 9 Sources 10 External links


Venere di Savignano.

In prehistoric times, the Italian peninsula
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
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 presence of Homo neanderthalensis
Homo neanderthalensis
has been demonstrated in archaeological findings dating to c. 50,000 years ago (late Pleistocene). There are some twenty such sites, the most important being that of the Grotta Guattari at San Felice Circeo, on the Tyrrhenian Sea
Tyrrhenian Sea
south of Rome. Other are the grotta di Fumane (province of Verona) and the Breuil grotto, also in San Felice. The first Cro Magnon
Cro Magnon
inhabitants of Italy
moved across the peninsula, establishing themselves in small settlements, like Monte Poggiolo, far from each one, most on high areas. 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.[1] In 2011 it has been discovered the most ancient Sardinian complete human skeleton (called Amsicora) at Pistoccu, in Marina di Arbus; scientists date it to 8500 years ago (the transition period between the Mesolithic
and Neolithic).[2] Neolithic[edit] Further information: Neolithic
Europe and Neolithic
Italy Cardium Pottery
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.[3]

Circular graves of Li Muri at Arzachena, one of the oldest megalithic sites in Italy.

Monte Bubbonia dolmen in Sicily

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.[4] 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.[5] This latter region, around 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.[6] Copper Age[edit]

Gaudo culture
Gaudo culture

Further information: Chalcolithic Europe
Chalcolithic Europe
and Metallurgy during the Copper Age in Europe The Remedello, Rinaldone and Gaudo 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 importants eneolithic cultures of the peninsula and the islands, often related to those previously mentioned, are the Laterza culture in Apulia
and Basilicata, the Abealzu-Filigosa culture
Abealzu-Filigosa culture
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),[7] lasted in some regions well into the Bronze Age
Bronze Age
and even into the Iron Age.[8] The Beaker culture
Beaker culture
marks the transition between the Eneolitichic and the early Bronze Age.

Early Bronze Age
Bronze Age
daggers from Italy

Bronze Age[edit] Further information: Bronze Age
Bronze Age
Europe Polada culture[edit] Main article: Polada culture

Polada culture
Polada culture

The Polada Culture (a location near Brescia) was a cultural horizon extended from eastern Lombardy
and Veneto to Emilia and Romagna, formed in the first half of 2nd millennium BC
2nd millennium BC
perhaps for the arrival of new people from the transalpine regions of Switzerland
and Southern Germany.[9] The settlements were usually made up of stilt houses; the economy was characterized by agricultural and pastoral activities, hunting and fishing were also practiced as well as the metallurgy of copper and bronze (axes, daggers, pins etc.). Pottery was coarse and blackish.[10] It was followed in the Middle Bronze Age
Bronze Age
by the facies of the pile dwellings and of the dammed settlements.[11] Nuragic civilization[edit]

A Sardinian bronze statuette, perhaps portraying a tribal chief. Cagliari, Museo Archeologico Nazionale.

Main articles: Nuragic civilization
Nuragic civilization
and Torrean civilization Located in Sardinia
(with ramifications in southern Corsica), the Nuragic civilization, who lasted from the early Bronze Age
Bronze Age
(18th century B.C.) to the second century A.D. when the island was already Romanized, evolved during the Bonnanaro period from the preexisting megalithic cultures that built dolmens, menhirs, more than 2,400 Domus de Janas and also the imponent altar of Monte d'Accoddi. 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.

village of Su Nuraxi

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, one of the so-called People of the Sea who attacked ancient Egypt and other regions of eastern Mediterranean.[12] 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,[13] 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,[14] perhaps the oldest anthropomorphic statues of the western Mediterranean sea. Sicily[edit] Main articles: Castelluccio culture
Castelluccio culture
and Thapsos culture

Thapsos culture
Thapsos culture

Among the most important cultural expressions born in Sicily
during the Bronze Age
Bronze Age
the cultures of Castelluccio (Ancient Bronze Age) and of Thapsos (Middle Bronze Age) are worth noting. Both originated in the southeastern part of the island. In these cultures, in particular in the Castelluccio phase, there are obvious influences from the Aegean Sea, where the Helladic civilization was flourishing.[15]

Village of Capo Graziano, Filicudi

Belonging to a western (Iberian-Sardinian) type is the Bell Beaker culture known from sites on the northwestern and southwestern coasts of Sicily, previously occupied by the Conca d'Oro culture, while in the late Bronze Age
Bronze Age
there are signs in northeastern Sicily
of cultural osmosis with the people of the peninsula that led to the appearance of Proto-Villanovan culture
Proto-Villanovan culture
at Milazzo, perhaps linked to the arrival of Sicels.[16] The nearby Aeolian Islands
Aeolian Islands
hosted the flourishing of the Capo Graziano and Milazzo
cultures in the Bronze Age, and subsequently that of Ausonio (divided into two phases, I and II).[17] Palma Campania
culture[edit] Palma Campania
culture takes shape at the end of the third millennium BC and is representative of the Early Bronze Age
Bronze Age
of Campania. It owes its name to the locality of Palma Campania
where the first findings were made. Many villages of this culture were buried under volcanic ash after an eruption of the Mount Vesuvius
Mount Vesuvius
that took place in the 2000 BC or shortly later.[18] Apennine culture[edit] Main article: Apennine culture The Apennine culture
Apennine culture
is a cultural complex of central and southern Italy
that, in its broadest sense (including the preceding Protoapennine B and following Subapennine facies), spans the Bronze Age. In the narrower sense more commonly used today, it refers only to the later phase of the Middle Bronze Age
Bronze Age
in the 15th and 14th centuries BCE.[19] The people of the Apennine culture
Apennine culture
were, at least in part, cattle herdsmen grazing their ungulates over the meadows and groves of mountainous central Italy, including on the Capitoline Hill
Capitoline Hill
at Rome, as shown by the presence of their pottery in the earliest layers of occupation. The primary picture is of a population that lived in small hamlets located in defensible places. There is evidence that herdsmen, when traveling between summer pastures, built temporary camps or lived in caves and rock shelters. However, their range was not confined to the hills, nor was their culture confined to herding cattle, as shown by sites like Coppa Nevigata, a well-defended and somewhat sizeable coastal site where a variety of subsistence strategies were practiced alongside advanced industries such as dye production. Terramare[edit]


Main article: Terramare The Terramare
was a Middle and Recent Bronze Age
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).[20] Their total population probably reached an impressive peak of more than 120,000 individuals near the beginning of the Recent Bronze Age.[21] 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
Val Camonica
and the Po River, towards the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and Greece.[citation needed] Around the 12th century BC the Terramare
system collapsed, the settlements were abandoned and the populations moved southward, where they mingled with the Apennine peoples.[20] 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.[20] Castellieri[edit]

Castelliere of Monkodonja, Croatia

Main article: Castellieri culture The Castellieri civilization developed in Istria
during the Mid-Bronze Age, and later expanded into Friuli, the modern Venezia Giulia, Dalmatia
and the neighbouring areas.[22] It lasted for more than a millennium, from the 15th century BC until the Roman conquest in the 3rd century BC. It takes its name from the fortified boroughs (Castellieri, Friulian cjastelir) which characterized the culture. The ethnicity of the Castellieri civilization is uncertain, although it was most likely of Pre-Indoeuropean stock, coming from the sea. The first castellieri were indeed built along the Istrian coasts and present the same Megalithic
appearance characterizing in the Mycenaean civilization at the time. Hypotheses about an Illyrian origin of the people are not confirmed. The Castellieri were fortified boroughs, usually located on hills or mountains or, more rarely (such as in Friuli), in plains. They were constituted by one or more concentric series of walls, of rounded or elliptical shape in Istria
and Venezia Giulia, or quadrangular in Friuli, within which was the inhabited area. Some hundred castellieri have been discovered in Istria, Friuli, and Venezia Giulia, such as that of Leme, in west-central Istria, of Elerji, near Muggia, of Monte Giove near Prosecco (Trieste) and San Polo, not far from Monfalcone. However, the largest castelliere was perhaps that of Nesactium, in southern Istria, not far from Pula. Canegrate

Canegrate culture
Canegrate culture
ceramic finds

Main article: Canegrate
culture The Canegrate culture
Canegrate culture
developed from the mid- Bronze Age
Bronze Age
(13th century BC) till the Iron Age
Iron Age
in the Pianura Padana, in what is now western Lombardy, eastern Piedmont
and Ticino. It takes its name from the township of Canegrate
where, in the 20th century, some fifty tombs with ceramics and metal objects were found. It represents the first migratory wave of the proto-Celtic[23] population from the northwest part of the Alps
that, through the Alpine passes, had already penetrated and settled in the western Po valley between Lake Maggiore and Lake Como
Lake Como
(Scamozzina culture). They brought a new funerary practice—cremation—which supplanted inhumation.[24] Canegrate
terracotta is very similar to that known from the same period north to the Alps
(Provence, Savoy, Isère, Valais, the area of Rhine-Switzerland-eastern France). The members of the culture have been described as a warrior population who had descended to Pianura Padana from the Swiss Alps
passes and the Ticino.

Proto-Villanovan cinerary urn from Allumiere

Proto-Villanovan culture[edit] Main article: Proto-Villanovan culture It was a culture of the end of the Bronze Age
Bronze Age
(12th-10th century BC), widespread in much of the Italian peninsula
Italian peninsula
and north-eastern Sicily (including the Aeolian Islands), characterized by the funeral ritual of incineration. The ashes of the deceased were placed into biconical urns decorated with geometric patterns. Their settlements were often located on the top of the hills and protected by stone walls.[25] Luco-Meluno culture[edit] Main article: Luco-Meluno culture The Luco-Meluno culture
Luco-Meluno culture
originated in the transition period between the Bronze Age
Bronze Age
and the Iron Age
Iron Age
and occupied Trentino
and part of South Tyrol. It was succeeded, in the Iron Age, from the Fritzens-Sanzeno culture. Iron Age[edit] Further information: Iron Age
Iron Age

Villanovan Tomb from the 9th century BC. Museo Guarnacci, Volterra.

Villanova culture[edit] Main article: Villanova culture The name of this Iron Age
Iron Age
civilization derives from a locality in the frazione Castenaso of Bologna, in Emilia, where a necropolis was discovered by Giovanni Gozzadini
Giovanni Gozzadini
in 1853-1856. It succeeded the Proto-Villanovan culture
Proto-Villanovan culture
during the Iron Age
Iron Age
in the territory of Tuscany
and northern Lazio and spread in parts of Romagna, Campania and Fermo
in the Marche The main characteristic of the Villanovans (with some similarities with the so-called protovillanovian epoch of the late Bronze Age) were the incinerated sepultures, in which the dead's ashes were housed in double-cone shaped urns and buried. The burial characteristics relate the Villanovan culture to the Central European Urnfield culture
Urnfield culture
(c. 1300–750 BC), and Hallstatt culture
Hallstatt culture
(which succeeded the Urnfield culture). The Villanovan were initially devoted to agriculture and breeding, with a simplified social order. Later, specialized craftsmanship activities such as metallurgy and ceramics created an accumulation of richness, which caused the appearance of social stratification. Latial culture[edit] Main article: Latial culture Este culture[edit] Main article: Este culture Golasecca culture[edit]

Pottery of the Golasecca culture.

Main article: Golasecca culture The Golasecca culture
Golasecca culture
developed starting from the early Iron Age
Iron Age
in the northwestern Po plain. It takes its name from Golasecca, a locality next to the Ticino
where, in the early 19th century, abbot Giovanni Battista Giani excavated its first findings (some fifty tombs with ceramics and metal objects). Remains of the Golasecca culture span an area of c. 20,000 square kilometers south to the Alps, between the Po, Sesia
and Serio rivers, dating from the 9th to the 4th century BC. Their origins can be directly traced from that of Canegrate
and to the so-called Proto- Golasecca culture
Golasecca culture
(12th-10th centuries BC). The Golasecca culture
Golasecca culture
traded with the Etruscans
and the Halstatt culture on the north, later reaching the Greek world (oil, wine, bronze objects, ceramics and others) and northern Europe (tin and amber from the Baltic coast). In a Golasecca culture
Golasecca culture
tomb in Pombia
has been found the oldest known remain of common hop beer in the world.

Rock drawings in Val Camonica.

Fritzens-Sanzeno culture[edit] Main article: Fritzens-Sanzeno culture The Camuni[edit] The Camuni
were an ancient people of uncertain origin (according to Pliny the Elder, they were Euganei; according to Strabo, they were Rhaetians) who lived in Val Camonica
Val Camonica
– in what is now northern Lombardy
– during the Iron Age, although human groups of hunters, shepherds and farmers are known to have lived in the area since the Neolithic. They reached the height of their power during the Iron Age
Iron Age
due to the presence of numerous iron mills in Val Camonica. Their historical importance is, however, mostly due to their legacy of carved rocks, c. 300,000 in number, which date from the Palaeolithic to the Middle Ages. Pre-Roman period[edit] Further information: Ancient Italic peoples, Etruscan civilization, Magna Graecia, Roman kingdom, and Italic peoples

Etruscan fresco from Tarquinia

Among the populations of pre-Roman Italy, the most notable were the Etruscans
who, starting from the 8th century BC, created a refined civilization which largely influenced Rome
and the Latin world. The origins of this non-Indo-European people, which first settled on the Tyrrhenian coast of central Italy
and later expanded to northern Italy (Emilia in particular) and Campania, are uncertain. Other peoples living in northern Italy
include the Ligurians
(an Indo-European people who lived in what is now Liguria, southern Piedmont
and the southern French coast), the Lepontii, Insubres, Orobii and other Celtic tribes in Piedmont
and Lombardy, the Veneti of north-eastern Italy. In the peninsula, alongside the Etruscans, lived numerous tribes, mostly of Indo-European origin: the Umbri in Umbria and northern Abruzzo, the Latins, who created the Roman civilization, Sabellians, Falisci, Volsci
and Aequi
in the Latium; Piceni
in the Marche
and north-east Abruzzo; Samnites
in southern Abruzzo, Molise and Campania; Daunians, Messapii
and Peucetii
(forming the Apulian or Iapygian
confederation) in Apulia; Lucani
and Bruttii
in the southern tips of the peninsula. In Sicily
lived the Sicels, Elymians
and Sicani[26] while Sardinia
was still inhabited by the Nuragic peoples. Later, other peoples settled in the Italian territory, cohabiting with the previous inhabitants: new tribes of Celts
in the north (Senones, Boii, Lingones
etc.), the Greeks
and the Phoenicians
in the south and in part of Sicily
and Sardinia. See also[edit]

Ancient peoples of Italy Italic languages


^ Wilford, John Noble (2 Nov 2011). "Fossil Teeth Put Humans in Europe Earlier Than Thought". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-04-19.  ^ Found Amsicora: the oldest Sardinian ^ "Impressed Ware Culture". The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology. Retrieved 2008-05-11.  ^ Antonio Gilman, Neolithic
of Northwest Africa, Antiquity,vol 48, no. 192 (1974), pp 273-282. ^ Artepreistorica.com - MEGALITISMO DOLMENICO DEL SUD-EST ITALIA NELL´ETA´ DEL BRONZO(in Italian) ^ Salvatore Piccolo (2013), Ancient Stones: The Prehistoric Dolmens of Sicily. Abingdon/GB, Brazen Head Publishing, ISBN 978-09-56510-62-4. ^ Francesco Fedele - La società dell’età del Rame nell’area alpina e prealpina(in Italian) ^ Museo delle Statue Stele Lunigianesi - Le statue stele in Italia e in Europa Archived 2014-05-13 at the Wayback Machine.(in Italian) ^ Bietti Sestieri 2010, p. 21. ^ Enciclopedia dell'arte antica , Polada- P.Palmieri(1965) ^ Bietti Sestieri 2010, p. 31. ^ Delia Guasco 2006, p. 118. ^ Delia Guasco 2006, p. 66-67. ^ Delia Guasco 2006, p. 69. ^ Piccolo, Salvatore (2018). Bronze Age
Bronze Age
Sicily. Ancient History Encyclopedia.[permanent dead link] ^ treccani.it - Siculi ^ Sicilia-Enciclopedia italiana (1981) ^ Facies culturale di Palma Campania(in Italian) ^ Bietti Sestieri 2010, p. 128. ^ a b c Andrea Cardarelli - The collapse of the Terramare
culture and growth of new economic and social system during the late Bronze Age
Bronze Age
in Italy ^ Bietti Sestieri 2010, p. 78. ^ Bietti Sestieri 2010, p. 60. ^ Venceslas Kruta: La grande storia dei celti. La nascita, l'affermazione e la decadenza, Newton & Compton, 2003, ISBN 88-8289-851-2, ISBN 978-88-8289-851-9 ^ Di Maio, 1998. ^ Treccani, Protovillanoviano ^ Delia Guasco 2006, p. 64.


Anati, Emmanuel (1964). La civiltà di Val Camonica. Milan: Il Saggiatore.  Gianna G. Buti e Giacomo Devoto, Preistoria e storia delle regioni d'Italia, Sansoni Università, 1974 Anna Maria Bietti Sestieri, L'Italia nell'età del bronzo e del ferro : dalle palafitte a Romolo (2200-700 a.C.). with CD-ROM. Rome: Carocci. 2010. ISBN 9788843052073. Renato Peroni, L'Italia alle soglie della storia, Editori Laterza, 2004 ISBN 9788842072409 Delia Guasco, Popoli italici. L'Italia prima di Roma, Giunti Editore, 2006 ISBN 9788809040625

External links[edit]

Anna Maria Bietti Sestieri - Protostoria, Enciclopedia Italiana - VI Appendice (2000) (in Italian)

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