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Terramare, Terramara, or Terremare is a technology complex mainly of the central Po valley, in Emilia, northern Italy, dating to the Middle and Late Bronze Age ca. 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 young (18 years 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 the views of Gaetano Chierici that the pile dwellings further north represented a Roman ancestral 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. 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 W. Ridgeway the dead were treated to 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.
Theories of ethnic identity
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 Ligurians who at some early period took to erecting pile dwellings. Why they should have done so is difficult to see. Some of the Terramare 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 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 the Villanovan culture.
List of sites
- Santa Rosa di Poviglio
- Fondo Paviani
- Case del Lago
- Case Cocconi
- Anzola dell'Emilia
- Genetic history of Italy
- Prehistoric Italy
- Villanovan culture
- Polada culture
- Ancient peoples of Italy
- Dark earth
- Map of the Terramare culture
- Pearce, Mark (December 1, 1998). "New research on the terramare of northern Italy". Antiquity.
- Rykwert, Joseph (1999). The idea of a town: the anthropology of urban form in Rome, Italy and the ancient world (4 ed.). Cambridge MA: MIT Press. p. 73. ISBN 0-262-68056-4, 9780262680561 Check
- Menotti, Francesco (2004). Living on the lake in prehistoric Europe: 150 years of lake-dwelling research (illustrated ed.). Routledge. pp. 84–85. ISBN 0-415-31719-3, 9780415317191 Check
- Who were the Romans? p. 16; and Early Age of Greece, i. 496
- Mallory, J.P. (1997). "Terramare Culture". Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn.
- Pigorini, Luigi. "Le più antiche civiltà dell'Italia". Bollettino di paleoetnologia italiana.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.