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Terramare Culture

The Po Valley's Talented Pioneer Inhabitants

A Terramare Village

In the 19th century, farmers around the Po valley knew of patches of land with an unusually rich peat-like soil. Called terra marre, it was dug up and sold as garden fertilizer. The farmers paid little attention to the potsherds and bits of metal that turned up in these sites, but eventually these attracted the attention of archaeologists, leading to the discovery of one of the most unusual and enigmatic cultures of ancient Italy. They’re still putting together the pieces of this puzzle, but so far it is certain that the ‘Terramare people’ migrated down from the region of Lake Garda around the 1700 bc, and settled most of the Po valley.

Another thing we know is that they were some of the busiest beavers of antiquity. The Terramare people lived in carefully constructed wooden houses raised on piles, like the lake-dwellers of Switzerland (and the Italian lakes, and central Italy; they were probably all closely related). In this soggy valley such houses had to be rebuilt every 20 years or so; it was all this wood, piling up and rotting away over the generations, that made the soil under the villages so rich.

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Bologna History and Sidelights

Modena History and Sidelights

Text © Dana Facaros & Michael Pauls

Image by Parco di Montale