The civilization of the “Terramara”, fortified villages surrounded by an embankment and a moat, had developed in the Po valley during the Bronze Age, between 1650 and 1170 BC. Its name derives from marl ground (from the word "loam" in the Emilia dialect) with reference to the soil that was found within low hills, which were typical of the Po valley landscape in the nineteenth century.
Many villages were concentrated in the central-western Emilia and in the Transpadana area between the provinces of Verona, Mantua and Cremona, and the whole area was densely inhabited. The total number of inhabitants was very high for that time, approximately between 150,000 and 200,000. Although the houses did not stand on lacustrine or fluvial areas, they were often built on stilts, placed side by side and separated by narrow streets.
The society was organized according to a participatory pattern that involved the whole community, even though economic and social differences were already proved. Besides the chiefs, warriors were the emerging elite. The role of the artisans was also important, since they created swords, daggers, spears, pins, buckles, razors and even agricultural tools such as sickles.
For about five long centuries, the Po valley is the destination of long-term settlements with complex structural features that require advanced building and organizational skills, while the territory undergoes a considerable change, in an anthropic sense, due to deforestation, cultivation of large areas, water process management and control of the river network.
Intensive agriculture and breeding encourage a rapid growth of the population and the development of handicraft production, while trade and commerce are certainly favored by the existence of some important traffic lines that connect the world of Terramare with other districts of the peninsula and with the transalpine area and Europe in general, providing the inhabitants with artifacts and prestige goods.
Probably, the most striking evidence of the opening of this great Po-valley civilization to the outside world is represented by the amber that from the coasts of Denmark and Germany, through the most famous of the European proto-history routes, the so-called “amber trade route”, came down to the Adriatic Sea; here it was sorted, one part towards the hinterland and the rest towards Mycenaean Greece, going down the peninsula.
The information concerning the necropolises of the Emilia Terramare area is much more modest compared to the great amount of data and materials existing on the settlements. There are only five necropolises, exclusively composed of cremation graves, whose materials are known (Copezzato, Parma, Montata, Casinalbo, Pragatto). Next to cinerary urns there are grave goods, mostly related to clothing and adornment: hairpin for plaits, buckles, pearls, tweezers, bracelets.
Apparently at the height of its development, around 1200 BC or shortly after, the society of Terramare undergoes a dramatic crisis that still today seems inexplicable if we do not consider several concomitant natural, demographic and historical causes that lead to the sudden abandonment of the settlements and the collapse of an economic and social system that had developed for about half millennium.
Due to their very nature, the Terramare, although widely distributed especially in the area of Parma, Reggio Emilia and Modena, do not preserve any structural evidence at sight when archaeologically investigated, except in very rare cases. One exception is the Museum and Archaeological Park of Montale, in Castelnuovo Rangone (MO), where an excavation area, investigated with modern operating methods, has been confined to a museum and part of the Terramare village has been life-sized reconstructed according to archaeological data. The Park organizes various educational activities with guided tours, workshops on ancient techniques and reproductions of the main crafts of the Bronze Age, summer camps for children to discover the ancient world.
Another important site of Terramare is the town of Santa Rosa Fodico (Poviglio - RE), where archaeological investigations are still underway in order to highlight the complex morphology of this town, which consists of a smaller village, roughly rectangular in shape, and a larger one located to the south of the former and partially bounded by an embankment.
During the summer time, guided tours to the archaeological site are organized, while to discover this important Bronze-Age settlement and its materials one can visit the Museum of Terramara.
For further information:
The Terramare in Emilia Romagna: