1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Terramara

TERRAMARA (from Ital. terra marna, “ marl ”), the name given by archaeologists[1] to a type of primitive culture mainly of the early bronze age, but stretching back into the later stone age. This civilization is represented by a number of mounds, formerly thought (e.g. by Venturi) to be sepulchral, but really the remains of human habitations, analogous to shell heaps (q.v.) or kitchen middens. They are found chiefly in north Italy, in the valley of the Po, round 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 terramara at Castellazzo di Fontanellato (province of Parma) in 1889. From this and succeeding investigations certain general conclusions have been reached. The terramara, in spite of local differences, is of typical form; it is a settlement, trapezoidal in form, built upon piles on dry lan protected by an earthwork strengthened on the inside by but resses, and encircled by a wide moat supplied with running water. 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 terramara 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, &c. There are also objects of bone and wood, besides pottery (both coarse and fine: see Ceramics), 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 terramara 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 the bodies were burned and the ashes placed in ossuaries; practically no objects were found in the urns.

Great differences of opinion have arisen as to the origin and ethnographical relations of the terramara folk. Brizio in his Epoch 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 Hoods, and as Brizio brings in no new invading people till long after the terramara 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 Pigorini regards the terramara people as an Aryan lake-dwelling people who invaded the north of Italy in two waves from Central Europe (the Danube valley) in 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. These people he calls the Italici, to whom he attributes also the culture known as Villanova (q.v.). This view is regarded as falling in with discoveries (somewhat incomplete, it is true) in Hungary and Bosnia.

Authorities.—All the evidence is collected by T. E. Peet, The Stone and Bronze Ages in Italy and Sicily (Oxford, 1909), xiv. and xviii., which gives illustrations and references to the more important literature; this work supersedes all previous works on the terremare. Prof. Pigorini's article, “Le più antiche civiltà dell' Italia," in Bullettino di paletnologia italiana, xxix., is classical. See also the works of Montelius, Modestov, and Ridgeway (Early Age of Greece, vol. i.).  (J. M. M.) 

  1. Since the International Congress of Prehistoric Archaeology at Bologna in 1871, when the shortened form terramara (plur. terremare) was adopted.