The Early Inhabitants of Italy

  • M. Cary
  • H. H. Scullard


Some 200,000 years ago, near the end of the second interglacial period, man first appeared in Italy. He has left tangible evidence of his presence in the flint axes which are found throughout the country (especially near Chieti and at Venosa), and an actual settlement has been revealed just west of Rome at Torrimpietra. His successors of the Middle Palaeolithic Age have left skulls of the Neanderthal type at Saccopastore at the very gates of Rome and in caves on Monte Circeo. More advanced were the men of the Upper Palaeolithic of c. 10,000 b.c., who are represented for instance by a Cro-Magnon type of skull in the Fucino area. Although engravings of animals are found on cave-walls and on bone, and a Palaeolithic ‘Venus’ has turned up near Lake Trasimene, Italy can offer nothing like the spectacular art found in the caves of France and Spain: indeed its population must have been very sparse, continually on the move, hunting and gathering food where best it could, and life was ‘poor, nasty, brutish and short’.


Regular Layout Early Inhabitant Italian Lake Neolithic People Char Animal Bone 


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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    The evidence for prehistoric Italy is naturally primarily archaeological. I have therefore included in the text the names of a certain number of small places of archaeological importance not in order to confuse the reader but to help him to orientate him-self more quickly if he wishes to turn for more detail to standard archaeological works. General surveys include T. E. Peet, The Stone and Bronze Ages in Italy and Sicily (1909);Google Scholar
  2. D. Randall-MacIver, Italy before the Romans (1927);Google Scholar
  3. J. Whatmough, The Foundations of Roman Italy (1937);Google Scholar
  4. D. H. Trump, Central and Southern Italy before Rome (1966);Google Scholar
  5. L. Barfield, Northern Italy before the Romans (1971).Google Scholar
  6. There is a very useful sketch and bibliography in J. Heurgon, The Rise of Rome (1973)Google Scholar
  7. while a summary is given by H. H. Scullard, The Etruscan Cities and Rome (1967), ch. 1.Google Scholar
  8. Traces of the so-called Beaker (or Bell-Beaker) culture, which spread widely in western Europe, including Britain (originating from Spain or central Europe?), have been found in Sardinia, Sicily and northern Italy, but not hitherto in the Italian peninsula itself. Now some beakers have been discovered at Fosso Conicchio (near Viterbo) and so a new element is injected into the prehistory of central Italy. See D. Ridgway, Antiquity 1972, 52.Google Scholar
  9. 2.
    See n. 1 and J. Bradford and P. R. Williams-Hunt, Antiquity 1946, 191 ff., and 1950, 84 ff.Google Scholar
  10. 3.
    See Lord William Taylour, Mycenaean Pottery in Italy (1958).Google Scholar
  11. 4.
    On Lipari see L. Bernabo Brea, Sicily before the Greeks (1957). From the seventeenth to fifteenth centuries (during the so-called Capo Graziano culture, named from a cape on the island of Filicundi), the islands imported Greek pottery (Middle Helladic, Late Helladic I, II and Mycenaean III A 1 and 2): this provides invaluable dating material. Contact with the East continued during the Middle Bronze Age cultural period (called Milazzese after a village of huts excavated on a promontory of that name on the island of Panarea). Also across the water on the opposite shore of Sicily at Milazzo (the later Greek and Roman Mylae) a cemetery has been excavated on the acropolis which contained similar material to that of Milazzese. While this Milazzese culture imported Apennine pottery, it also continued to trade further afield as witness the Mycenaean wares of c. 14001300 (LH IIIA), but a later decline in such imports implies that the culture had come to an end by 1250, while archaeology suggests that the end was abrupt.Google Scholar
  12. 5.
    See n. 1 and D. Randall-MacIver, The Iron Age in Italy (1927), and Villanovans and Early Etruscans (1924).Google Scholar
  13. 6.
    See J. B. Ward-Perkins, ‘Veii: The Historical Topography of the Ancient City’, Papers of the British School at Rome, 1961.Google Scholar
  14. 7.
    On the linguistic problems see E. Pulgram, The Tongues of Italy (1958).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The representatives of the estate of the late M. Cary and H. H. Scullard 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Cary
    • 1
  • H. H. Scullard
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LondonUK

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