Terramare culture

Terramare culture

Terramare or Terramara is a Bronze Age archaeological culture of Italy and Dalmatia, dating to ca. 1500-1100 BC. It takes its name from the "black earth" ("terremare") residue of settlement mounds.

This civilization is represented by a number of finds, once thought to be sepulchral, but really the remains of human habitations, analogous to shell heaps or kitchen middens, the "black earth" used by later farmers as fertilizer. They are found chiefly in north Italy, in the valley of the Po, in the vicinity of Modena, Mantua and Parma. A summary of early results as to these mounds was published by Munro (Lake Dwellings) in 1890, but scientific investigation really began only with the excavation of the terramare at Fontanellato (province of Parma) in 1889. From this and succeeding investigations certain general conclusions have been reached.

The Terramare, in spite of local differences, is of typical form; it is a settlement, trapezoidal in form, built upon piles on dry land protected by an earthwork strengthened on the inside by buttresses, and encircled by a wide moat supplied with running water. They range in size up to 20 hectares (not quite 50 acres). The east and west sides are parallel, and two roads, at right angles divide the settlement into four quarters. Outside are one or two cemeteries. Traces of burning which have been found render it probable that, when the refuse thrown down among the piles had filled the space, the settlement was burned and a new one built upon the remains. The origin of the Terramare type is not definitely ascertained. The most probable inference, however, is that these settlements were not built to avoid the danger of inundation, but represent a survival of the ordinary lake dwelling.

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. 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 were, still hunters, but had domesticated animals; they were fairly skilful metallurgists, casting bronze in moulds of stone and clay; they were also agriculturists, cultivating beans, the vine, wheat and flax.

According to Prof. W. Ridgeway ("Who were the Romans?" p. 16; and "Early Age of Greece", i. 496) burial was by inhumation: 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.

Great differences of opinion have arisen as to the origin and ethnographical relations of the Terramare folk. Brizio in his "Epoca Preistorica" advances the theory that they were the original Ibero-Ligurians who at some early period took to erecting pile-dwellings. Why they should have done so is difficult to see. Some of the terremare are clearly not built with a view to avoiding inundation, inasmuch as they stand upon hills. The rampart and the moat are for defence against enemies, not against floods, and as Brizio brings in no new invading people till long after the Terramare period, it is difficult to see why the Ibero-Ligurians should have abandoned their unprotected hut-settlements and taken to elaborate fortification. There are other difficulties of a similar character. Hence Luigi Pigorini regards the Terramare people as a lake-dwelling people who invaded the north of Italy in two waves from Central Europe (the Danube valley) at the end of the Stone Age and the beginning of the Bronze Age, bringing with them the building tradition which led them to erect pile dwellings on dry land, as well as Indo-European languages. These people he calls the "Italici", to whom he attributes to the Villanovan culture.

Modern thinking, however, attributes the Villanovan culture essentially to a proto-Etruscan people. It is thought the Terremare culture may be an early manifestation of Italic-speaking Indo-Europeans.


*cite book|last=Mallory|first=J.P.|uatholrink=J. P. Mallory|chapter=Terramare Culture|title=Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture|publisher=Fitzroy Dearborn|location=Chicago|year=1997
*cite journal|last=Pigorini|first=Luigi|title=Le più antiche civiltà dell'Italia|journal=Bollettino di paleoetnologia italiana

ee also

Dark earth

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