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European Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Terramare Culture (Bronze Age) (Italy)
c.1750 - 1150 BC

The Southern European Bronze Age Terramare culture appeared in Early Italy from the early second millennium BC onwards, spanning much of northern Italy while the indigenous Apennine occupied the south and centre. It was centred along the valley of the River Po where it predates Etruscan influence there, having replaced the Polada culture.

Its dating is generally given as being half a century behind the broader Apennine, between 1750-1150 BC, while the name comes from the black earth residues which have been found by archaeologists in settlement mounds ('terra', meaning 'earth', and 'mare' coming from 'marl', a type of soil which is usually - but not always - black).

The people of the Terramare were bronze users, possibly descendants of Bell Beaker folk in northern Italy and therefore also likely to be proto-Italics, although a few stone objects have also been found at their sites. They also made clay figures of animals, and sometimes of humans too.

While their origins are unknown they are generally perceived as being indigenous, although this is open to debate if they are to be linked to the Bell Beaker folk. Quite possibly they were a mixture of both, which could also make them the ancestors of the Ligurians of the first millennium BC, with their own confused origins.

Italian countryside

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, David W Anthony, from An Historical Geography of Europe, Norman J G Pounds (Abridged Version), from The Apennine Culture of Italy, D H Trump (Cambridge University Press, 2014), from The Bronze Age in Europe: an introduction to the prehistory of Europe, c.2000-700 BC, John M Coles & A F Harding (Taylor & Francis, 1979), and from External Link: The Beaker phenomenon and the genomic transformation of northwest Europe (Nature).)

1800 - 1750 BC

Bell Beaker culture has gradually faded in mainland Europe - as has the Polada culture in northern Italy - as it has been replaced by successor cultures. Replacement cultures largely include the Unetice in Central Europe, the Atlantic Bronze Age in the west (from about 1300 BC), and the Terramare culture in Italy.

Bell Beaker pots
Shown here is a selection of highly distinctive bell-shaped pots which were created by the Bell Beaker folk between around 2900-1800 BC in Europe and the British Isles

Its progression westwards and subsequent dissipation can be seen as a wave-front effect, sweeping all before it but not able to maintain such a dramatic dominance behind that wave-front.

1600 BC

The middle phase Apennine begins in peninsula Italy, but it shows signs of influences from the Balkans, suggesting an influx of new people. This has to be West Indo-Europeans and their related groups farther east along the Danube, seemingly as part of an early phase of migration into the Italian peninsula.

Terramare culture animal figure
This clay figurine of an animal was uncovered in Monte Venera, in Italy's province of Reggio Emilia, having been created by a member of the Terramare culture

c.1200 BC

Drier climactic conditions are causing a social breakdown further east, where the collapse of the Hittite empire is a major act in a century of turmoil. The same climate-induced hardships also hit the descendants of Indo-European settlers along the Danube and in Romania, descendants who have already expanded into the northern Balkans.

They begin to search out food and better circumstances, perhaps also helped on by the growing dominance of the Urnfield culture (in the local form of the Gava culture) to the north.

In Italy similar Indo-European groups, of the proto-Italic variety, begin or continue to penetrate deeply into the Italian peninsula.

Map of Late Bronze Age Cultures c.1200-750 BC
This map showing Late Bronze Age cultures in Europe displays the widespread expansion of the Urnfield culture and many of its splinter groups, although not the smaller groups who reached Britain, Iberia, and perhaps Scandinavia too (click or tap on map to view full sized)

Two tribes in this migration - the Latins and Faliscans - cross over the Apennines to reach the western coast  at about the same approximate time at which the Apennine culture begins to fade out.

c.1150 BC

The Southern European Terramare culture fades out as the recently-arrived proto-Italic Latins and Faliscans create a culture of their own in central and upper Early Italy. This becomes known as the Villanova, while the Golasecca emerges on the north Italian plain.

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