BMCR 2006.08.10

Oriente e Occidente: metodi e discipline a confronto. Riflessioni sulla cronologia dell’età del ferro in Italia, Atti dell’Incontro di studi, Roma, 30-31 ottobre 2003. Mediterranea, 1 (2004)

, , Oriente e Occidente : metodi e discipline a confronto, riflessioni sulla cronologia dell'età del ferro in Italia : atti dell'Incontro di studi, Roma, 30-31 ottobre 2003. Mediterranea : quaderni annuali dell'Istituto di studi sulle civiltà italiche e del mediterraneo antico del Consiglio nazionale delle ricerche, 1, 2004. Pisa: Istituti Editoriali e Poligrafici Internazionali, 2005. 663 pages : illustrations, maps ; 31 cm.. ISBN 8881473895. €495.00.

1 Responses

Although we have outgrown the equation pots = people, we still need to reconcile archaeological discoveries with the available historical information about the pre- and proto-historic cultures of Italy.1 The endeavor is complicated by tantalizing, quantifiable evidence from radiocarbon and tree-ring analyses: they yield eerily precise absolute dates that do not always match our theories. To complicate matters, it has been shown that radiocarbon dating is affected by a change in the amounts of isotopes taken in by plants and animals during the crucial early centuries of the first millennium BC, and thus dates given in older literature are no longer reliable. Further, soil conditions in most Italian sites have not preserved the wood samples needed to calibrate dates by tree-ring comparisons, as has been possible for transalpine Europe. Analytical studies have shown that the radiocarbon decline in the atmosphere occurred ca. 850-760 BC, and abrupt, global climate changes ensued around 800 BC, rendering many European sites unsustainable due to cold, wet weather. There is growing evidence of similar travails, both climatic and social, in early Italy.2

This large volume presents 25 papers delivered at a conference convened in Rome in 2003 to promote dialogue and define at least some common ground for reconciling the various chronologies of the Late Bronze and Iron Age cultures of Italy with the more exact systems that have been developed for European archaeology based on radiocarbon (hereafter, 14C) and dendrochronological data. Some scholars will still disagree, but most will be satisfied (or relieved) that, in general, the traditional systems seem to be supported by many recent developments. The articles are divided thematically: general, North-central Italy, South-central Italy, and the Mediterranean, each section followed by a lengthy discussion prepared by the contributors from comments aired during the meeting (one can just imagine the vivace e proficuo dibattito signaled by the editors). Many of these Interventi are vitally important and include notes, bibliography and illustrations; below, I note some in reference to the papers to which they responded, since they are untitled and there is no index to link them to the articles they elucidate. Discussants included all the authors/editors and also F. Arietti, G. Bagnasco Gianni, A.M. Bietti Sestieri, G. Colonna, F. Cordano, C. Giardino, A. Guidi, E. Gusberti, M.L. Lazzarini, L. Nigro, M. Rendeli, F. Trucco, S. Verger, P. von Eles, and A. Zanini. A paper by Carmine Ampolo on Bocchoris and dendrochronology was not in time for the publication (633 note 1). Although there was obviously considerable overlap in the evidence presented, I summarize each article, since a.) there is no index by which to cross-reference such topics as sites or pottery categories, and b.) at a breathtaking € 495, too many scholars will find this volume beyond their reach for browsing. (Unfortunately, many tables are too reduced and or blurred to read easily, and those unable to afford the book probably will not appreciate the expensively printed tiny photos of artifacts within chronological tables, for instance 314-318).

A critical change in society occurred in Italy with the transition, in the later 10th century, from Final Bronze to First Iron Age (in many regions the representative cultures are Protovillanovan and Villanovan, respectively), yet this was not a movement of different people, but a technological phenomenon that may be linked to developments in European cultures. The next major social milestone coincided with the full-blown ( Evoluto) phase of Villanovan culture in Etruria (anchored ca. 780-770 BC by Corinthian and Euboean pottery imports). In this phase we recognize the results of processes that had probably been underway for generations: the stratification of society and the unequal and apparently hereditary apportionment of wealth/land, as shown in the deposition of valuables and status symbols in select tombs. The Late Villanovan period, with settlements on the site of future cities, elite warriors and elaborate funerary rituals, was crucial in determining the character of classical Italy. In past scholarship, each excavated site was labeled with its own chronological/regional phases (thus, for instance, Latial III is roughly parallel to Tarquinia ιἰ, and authors (like many in this volume) also use their own terminology, such as Primo Ferro /First Iron IA, First Iron II, etc., inadvertently laying a minefield for uninitiated readers.

The absolute chronology of these two phenomena is hotly contested, and depends upon cross-referencing artifact typologies to establish links to Europe’s scientific chronology, and, via imported valuables deposited in 8th-century tombs, to the king lists and chronologies of the Aegean and Near East. As several authors noted, the next turning point, the beginning of the Orientalizing period, is now nearly a consensus at 740-730 BC, only slightly earlier than in past literature. It is thus in synch with the traditional, so-called Thucydidean, dating for Greek colonization (see also Peroni and Vanzetti, 658-660).

The opening address by A. Carandini and F. Roncalli (7-8) outlines the problem: evidence from tree-rings and 14C samples is abundant for European sites and rarely preserved in Italian contexts. Some of the newly developed data seem to put the traditional dates of the Urnfields and Hallstatt cultures, and thus the inception of the Italian Iron Age, back by as much as a century. Some Italian prehistorians (Peroni, Bietti Sestieri, Betelli) have embraced the more dramatic revisions, while others (Pacciarelli) have proposed moderate emendations. For classicists and historians the need to reconcile this with Nicholas Coldstream’s chronology for Geometric Greek pottery and the historical dates of the first Greek colonies looms over any attempt at correlating the transalpine information with Italian protohistory.

G. Bartoloni and F. Delpino, “Introduzione ai lavori,” 9-12, remind us that today’s chronological systems were begun in the 19th century, and the links between Europe, Italy and the East were developed by Hermann Müller-Karpe in 1959. Today, two schools of thought have evolved: the long chronology where the Iron Age/Villanovan period began ca. 1020/1000 BC (held by many prehistorians), and the short chronology, which limits the Villanovan to the 9th-8th centuries (following Massimo Pallottino, and Hugh Hencken’s Tarquinia typologies, published in the 1960’s). Over time the dates were made more precise: the change from Early ( Tipico) Villanovan to Late ( Evoluto) Villanovan was set at 780-770 BC, based on finds of Euboean and Corinthian pottery in indigenous contexts. Bartoloni proposes (as she did in La cultura villanoviana, Rome 2002:107-112) an intermediate period between these two phases, ca. 820-770 BC, corresponding to Tarquinia IC. But, at a Convegno in Verona in 1995, new studies of radiocarbon in Etruria and Latium (Bolsena Gran Carro, Fidenae, Satricum) drastically raised dates for the beginning of the Italian Iron Age. This was a breaking point for many scholars, and since the scientific evidence seems firm, it can only be resolved by re-examination of the archaeological contexts in which the organic samples were found.

R. C. de Marinis, “Cronologia relativa, cross-dating e datazioni cronometriche tra bronzo finale e primo ferro,” 15-52, discusses details of specific sites, and the cross-referencing of artifact typologies—thus, bronze pins, swords and fibulae are used to link Italian sites with precisely dated European contexts. He points out some problems with this method, begun in the 19th century by Oscar Montelius, since the European data derive from the wooden structures of settlements, but most of the relevant Italian sites are necropoleis. At the settlement at Scoglio del Tonno, inhabited through the crucial period (with Mycenaean pottery, Apennine and Sub-Apennine ceramics and Peschiera type bronzes), the stratigraphy is not clear enough to support close matching of assemblages.3 Bologna has become a key site for examination of both relative and absolute chronologies for the beginning of the Italian Iron Age, but in Latium the prime sources of 14C samples, huts at Satricum and Fidenae, have furnished a range of dates, only partially attributable to the “old wood effect” (of timber having been re-used or cut long before it was used). De Marinis refers to the recent reconfiguring of the 14C and tree-ring evidence from Gordion, which has raised the eighth-century date of the so-called Midas tomb (Tumulus MM) and other structures: most experts, including those dealing with Greek Geometric pottery, have come to concur on the revised dating.4

R. Peroni and A. Vanzetti, “Intorno alla cronologia della prima età del ferro italiana: da H. Müller-Karpe a Ch. Pare,” 53-80, point out that many of the new adjustments to European chronology, if applied to Italy, create lacunae or overextend some periods beyond common sense. They discuss pin typologies and situla-shaped vases from Este, also knife and sword types from Swiss and French sites. (See comments of de Marinis on details of European sites and arms types, 113-115.) A paradox is the “proto-Hallstatt” tomb at Wehringen, a male warrior’s burial with a ceremonial wagon of earlier, Urnfield type, and artifacts of the earliest Hallstatt C category, otherwise equated with the earliest Orientalizing phase of Italy. Recently, tomb chamber and wagon, cut from the same oak tree, were 14C-dated at 783-773 BC, occasioning rethinking of Italian links.5 (See also comments on Wehringen by Nijboer, 542; David-Elbiali and Dunning, 168; Pacciarelli, 86-87; and de Marinis and Gamberi, 209, who place carts in northern Italy—and the intensifying social hierarchy that they attest—near the end of the 8th century. The hardware shows that they were diffused from Tyrrhenian Etruria to the north, but within a very short timespan.)

M. Pacciarelli, “Osservazioni sulla cronologia assoluta del bronzo finale e della prima età del ferro,” 81-90, presents some recent 14C dates for Italian sites, allowing a 25-year period (one generation!) for error/variation. The main sources of data for the period are correlated from Bologna, Tarquinia, Veii, Pontecagnano, Torre Galli and Terni, although problems are acknowledged in matching phases II-III of Latial culture with the Villanovan phases at Etruscan sites. A crucial site is Livorno-Stagno, which has furnished 14C dates as well as artifact typologies. But as Zanini noted (129), the wiggle-matched dating there is not neatly compatible with the elegant calibration that has been possible for the Swiss lake sites to which it is usually compared.6 Delpino (pp. 130-132) warned that the 9th-century dates at Fidenae and Satricum may be too high.

C. Iaia, I bronzi laminati del primo ferro italiano come indicatori cronologici a vasto raggio e problemi interpretative, pp. 91-110. This review of the diagnostic sheet-metalwork used to link Villanovan Etruscan contexts with European sites drew a great deal of comment and criticism (including replies by Iaia, 115-116, 139-142). Conical helmets typify the early Iron Age and link European contexts to Tarquinia I (cf. Babbi, 117-119, De Marinis, 119-122); the next phase is characterized by cups, urns and situlae, often with ideologically-inspired bird-boat motives in repoussé (cf. S. Verger, 123-127), and the third horizon shows hemispherical cups, amphorae and the first Levantine-inspired ribbed/fluted cups. (Trucco, 401, confirmed Iaia’s typology at Tarquinia.)

M. David-Elbiali and C. Dunning, “Le cadre chronologique relatif et absolu au nord-ouest des Alpes entre 1060 et 600 av. J.-C.” [note discrepancy with table of contents which reads “Il quadro cronologico relativo e assoluto nell’ambito nord-alpino tra 1000 e 700 a. C.”], 145-195, offer a very clear, well illustrated survey of the best sources of data from an array of Swiss and French sites, many of which have provided hundreds of datable samples, with exceptionally precise tree-ring dates for the transition from Final Bronze to Iron Age (one structure at Conjux Port 3 [Savoie] was dated “Winter of 813/812 BC”) They cover Hallstatt HaB1 (1060-1000 BC) through HaD1 (700-650/625), and set the beginning of the Iron Age (HaB2) at 950-900 BC in Europe but probably slightly earlier in Italy. (For more on pins, see Vanzetti, 381-383.)

R. C. de Marinis and F. M. Gambari, “La cultura di Golasecca tra X e VIII secolo a. C.: cronologia relativa e correlazioni con altre idee culturali,” 145-195, characterize the northern, Golasecca culture from Final Bronze through Golsecca I C (7th century BC). The heavy, ribbed “Mörigen” type fibulae of Cà Morta, Sesto Calende and Casteletto Ticino are a link to Europe of the urnfields, but carts/chariots of Etruscan design in tombs at Como demonstrate that by 700 BC this people was already performing its historical role of intermediary between the Mediterranean and transalpine Europe. Again, as Peroni and Vanzetti noted, the significant phenomenon is the social and political development of an elite “horsy set”.

A. Alberti, L. Dal Ri, C. Marzoli and U. Tecchiati, “Evidenze relative al X, IX e VIII secolo a. C. nell’ambito dell’alto bacino del fiume Adige (cultura di Luco-Meluno),” 227-238, describe the Luco-Meluno culture (near Bolzano) as excavated in its only large settlement and cemetery site, Vadena. A series of 14C dates cover the 10th-8th centuries. Unfortunately, the distinctive pins, razors, etc. said to show affinities to Villanovan Bologna, are not illustrated. (De Marinis, 383, pointed out that some dates for Vadena are aberrant.)

E. Bianchin Citton and N. Martinelli, “Cronologia relativa e assoluta di alcuni contesti veneti della tarda età del bronzo e degli inizi dell’età del ferro. Nota preliminare,” 239-253. Provisional 14C dates for the Venetic center at Este are derived from structural samples of short-lived wood, which should approximate the actual building date, and they fit neatly with other regions. At Caorle-San Gaetano, 1130 BC is associated with the beginning of Final Bronze, and at Treviso, dates of 954/3-896 +/- 20 are indicated for the transition to First Iron Age. This is one of the few articles that gives maps/plans and images of the wooden structures along with the characteristic artifacts. (For comments, see Bietti Sestieri, 384-385; and Bianchin Citton, 385-386.)

A. Dore, “Il Villanoviano I-III di Bologna: problemi di cronologia relativa e assoluta,” 255-292. At Bologna, the rich array of metalwork, especially fibulae, razors, pins and spindles, from a range of contexts (necropoleis, huts and hoards) supports sophisticated typologies, but it must be firmly anchored to the dated sequence of Tyrrhenian Etruria’s Greek imports and to Europe’s absolute dates. Some scholars, comparing Bologna to Veii, have seen it as following (and belatedly retaining) the developments begun in Tyrrhenian Italy; others, focusing on 14C evidence, date some contexts a century or more ahead of Villanovan Etruria. The appearance of chevron-skyphoi in Bologna IIIB, long after their appearance in Veii, however, anchors the system to the Villanovan Iron Age. (See the tables on Villanovan sequences at Bologna, presented by Peroni, Ferranti and von Eles, 387-394.)

A. Babbi and A. Piergrossi, “Per una definizione della cronologia relativa e assoluta del Villanoviano veiente e tarquiniese,” 293-318. The transition to “Evolved Villanovan” at Tarquinia and Veii marks a crucial social phenomenon that begins ca. 820-810 BC, well before foreign colonization. See Bartoloni, 385, who considered this a distinct phase, as it is particularly dense in changes in funerary ritual (cremations buried within dolia), ceramic (amphora-kraters) and metallurgical production, and intensified contact with the Greek world. The end of this period by ca. 720/710 again falls into line with the traditional chronology, and is further confirmed by Near Eastern objects such as the lion-head rhyton in Veii Casal del Fosso tomb 871 which can be identified in Assyrian reliefs of Sargon II (721-705 BC) and also in Gordion Tumulus MM. (For Gordion, see also Delpino, 395-396.)

F. Boitani, “La ceramica greco-geometrica di Veio,” 319-332, reviews the type-fossils of Greek contact, skyphoi with pendant semicircles (πσξ with chevron ornament, and with a bird-metope, generally believed to have originated in that order, and known at Veii in early imports and local imitations, all from tombs. Tomb groups support the traditional dating for these classes, of 770-750 BC (the end of Middle Geometric to Late Geometric).

M. A. Rizzo, “Ceramica greca e di tipo greco da Cerveteri,” 333-378. Studies of material from past and recent excavations at Cerveteri allow this site to be inserted into the system of Greek imports and imitations developed for Veii and Tarquinia, for the period ca. 775-700 BC. Rizzo reviews the material by cemetery site and type—her bibliography for PSC skyphoi (333-339), chevron-skyphoi and bird bowls (355-359) is exceptionally thorough (see also the articles of Kourou [500-502], and Botto and Dokter). She notes (358-359), as seconded by other authors (Bartoloni and Nizzo, 423), that very little material can now be attributed to a so-called “pre-colonial” phase in which Greek pottery was a novelty being proffered (whether by transient Levantines or Greeks) to the natives of the archipelago. By 800 BC, Italy was already geared up for intensive foreign exchange; and as soon as colonists arrived at Pithekoussai, good local versions of Greek Geometric pottery were retailed not only at Veii and Tarquinia, but at Cerveteri as well.

Among the Interventi that are mini-articles are two contributions surveying recent discoveries: F. Trucco on the Tarquinian early Iron Age necropolis at Villa Bruschi Falgari (398-402); and A.M. Bietti Sestieri (402-406) on the 14C-dated hut at Fidenae destroyed by fire at the beginning of Latial III. The dates for both roof posts and seeds inside the hut agree—but represent a very wide range, recorded as 1020-820 BC. Still, as she notes, even if we select the lowest date, we must admit that Latial period III began before the end of the 9th century BC, and the correlations with Late Villanovan Etruria are in jeopardy. Many authors did find that later Latial material could be correlated with the traditional chronologies, and (as G. Bagnasco Gianni, 395) 8th-century chronology derived from foreign comparanda is remarkably homogeneous and persuasive.

G. Bartoloni and V. Nizzo, “Lazio protostorico e mondo Greco,” 409-436, suggest adjusting the relative length of Latial phase III, as did Pacciarelli. The finds of Latial objects in the graves of Pithekoussai fit into a system (earliest tombs at Pithekoussai ca. 750-740, earliest settlement ca. 775 BC) corresponding to the distribution of painted Greek vases in the region. Their table A (423) correlates Campanian, Latial and Etruscan sites (Pithekoussai, Pontecagnano, Osteria dell’Osa, Veii), with Gordion Tumulus MM (cf. Nijboer, 531) and the eye-opening finds at Nuragic Sant’Imbenia. They conclude, based on the coherence of frequent external contacts, that it is not possible to significantly raise the dates of the 8th century/ Late Villanovan period. (See contribution of Gusberti, below; also Nizzo’s comments, with bibliography, 488-493.)

B. d’Agostino, “Osservazioni sulla cronologia della prima età del ferro nell’Italia meridionale,” 437-440, revisits the Pontecagnano tombs and correlations with the Levant/Near East, essentially confirming the traditional dating schemes, after Coldstream: MPG cups at Tyre in the 10th and Levantine imports at Lefkandi-Toumba in the mid-10th to mid-9th century. Recent finds of 7th-century Greek pottery in levels of Babylonian destruction in Israel confirm traditional dates. The use of the Corinthian globular aryballos as a type-fossil, found at Syracuse and Cumae, is confirmed at Tarsus with finds in the Sennacherib destruction level (696 BC). (Note that the complete title of I. Lemos 2002, cited 440, is The Protogeometric Aegean: The archaeology of the late eleventh and tenth centuries BC.)

F. Ferranti, “L’orizzonte tardo-geometrico enotrio alla vigilia delle fondazioni coloniali greche,” 441-452, surveys the Greek-inspired Geometric ornamentation of Oenotrian pottery at several key sites of the period of first contact, with emphasis on the defended site of Broglio di Trebisacce, abandoned just before the foundation of Sybaris (720-709 BC and thus correlated to the last gasp of Late Geometric (LG 2). This is a perfect match to Pithekoussai tomb 325, a child buried with an Oenotrian askos and a Bocchoris scarab (ca. 714-708 BC). Once again, the lower end of our series, the beginning of the Orientalizing period/end of Iron Age II, reconciles with traditional dating.

E. M. De Juliis, “La prima età del ferro in Puglia,” 453-466. While we may be obliged to use external links to the absolute chronology of the East, we should also be expanding the scope of studies of Italic and Villanovan society. The Apenninic and Subapenninic cultures of southern Italy, especially in Apulia and Basilicata, prospered during the Late Bronze Age, maintaining flourishing exchange with the Aegean. Around the transition from Recent to Final Bronze, many settlements underwent violent destruction and emerged Protovillanovan in character. This was not perpetrated by alien immigrants, but was the result of an ongoing social process within the original population. There is also some evidence, against the backdrop of wanderers from the Mycenaean collapse, for the integration of a discrete number of people of Balkan origin (read Illyrian-Iapygian as indicated by Herodotus). To De Juliis they were not conquerors but partners with the Adriatic and Protovillanovan natives in the development of new social and political structures. A hierarchy of settlements and hut types, changes in funerary ritual and monuments, in metalwork, and finally in painted pottery, all fit the evolving culture… just in time for it to receive the new MG, LG, and Proto-Corinthian imports. When, finally, Spartan colonists arrived, their behavior profoundly (and violently) affected the Iapygian culture.

E. Gusberti’s (469-476) comments are a mini-article, illustrating recent finds from burials at Osteria dell’Osa and the north slope of the Palatine in Rome, where excavators identified the Porta Mugonia and also a domus regia of the second half of the 8th century.

G. Colonna (478-483) comments on the growing evidence for the alphabet in Italy early in the 8th century. This includes the man’s name “Aie” in the San Francesco hoard at Bologna, sigmas and the Etruscan numeral 50 on axes in the Ardea hoard, and the beginning of an abecedarium on a Veientine amphoretta. The now-famous aryballos-like vase previously read as Greek eulin, from Tomb 482 (of an elderly woman) at Osteria dell’Osa (Gabii), is the oldest known alphabetic inscription in Italy. Colonna makes a strong case for an amended reading of the individual letters as copied from Greek orthography but actually written retrograde, like Etruscan, so ni lue (“don’t take” or “hands off” in archaic Latin, and thus close in spirit to the lekythos of Tataie at early Cumae which in Greek threatens any thief with blindness!) (Cf. Bartoloni, pp. 493-494 who does not accept a 9th-century date for this tomb. The rarity of Greek inscriptions in the early 8th century has given epigraphers cause for concern over the Italian evidence.)

N. Kourou, “Greek imports in Early Iron Age Italy,” 497-515, in a thorough review of Greek Early Iron Age type-fossils, emphasizes how thoroughly the latest discoveries support the traditional chronology. This is still based on Near Eastern destruction horizons such as the sack of Hama by the Assyrians in 720 BC, and the recently identified destruction of Tel Rehov by Hazael of Syria ca. 840-830 BC (with firm 14C dates). Dates at Tel Abu Hawam and Tel Dor have been corrected downward. At Tel Hadar, in a tripartite pillared building probably a warehouse or customs house, the destruction layer in which a Protogeometric Greek vase reposed has been redated from the 11th century down to ca. 980, much closer to Coldstream’s proposed stylistic date of ca. 950 BC.7 (See also Botto, 592.) Attic and Euboean painted wares found in Pontecagnano confirm this complex yet dense tissue of interwoven typologies. (See also Bagnasco Gianni, 394-395, on the homogeneity of the Near Eastern material.)

R. M. Albanese Procelli, “Fasi e facies della protostoria recente in Sicilia: dati e problemi interpretative,” 517-525, reviews the meager 14C evidence for Sicilian sites, and critiques the historical sources for the first colonies. The Villasmundo necropolis has provided a sequence of Greek wares from ca. 775-750 to 700 BC. Probably other sites await discovery that also partook of intensive trade, for even in the interior, imitation Greek wares attest to foreign exchange in the period of Middle Geometric II (800-750 BC and Late Geometric wares reached indigenous settlements in significant quantities. The beginning of the Iron Age, punctuated by Nuragic imports, is said to precede by perhaps two generations the deliberate import of Nuragic goods (askoid jugs) into Etruria around the middle of the 9th century.

A. J. Nijboer, “La cronologia assoluta dell’età del ferro nel Mediterraneo: dibattito sui metodi e sui risultati,” 527-556, considers the theoretical effects of a radically revised chronology for Italy, and questions “whether a handful of Greek shards… can be equated with an 8th century BC colonisation process.” His Table A (528) is simplified but offers a broad correlation of dates across Europe, the Aegean, Etruria and Latium. (Several scholars, 643-645, commented on/corrected details of this table, the Iron Age portion of which was published in A.J. Nijboer, J. van der Plicht, A.M. Bietti Sestieri and A. De Santis, “A High Chronology for the Early Iron Age in Central Italy,” Palaeohistoria 41/42, 1999/2000:163-176.) He surveys the key data for absolute dating, huts at Fidenae and Francavilla Marittima, the new 14C dates at Carthage, and the Gordion redating. At Pithekoussai and Francavilla the traditional dates and the beginning of Orientalizing ca. 720 BC are confirmed. The radiocarbon dates for Phoenician colonies in Spain support a 9thcentury process for the Malaga region, and an early 8th century foundation for Toscanos and related sites. In Sardinia, Sant’Imbenia, a Nuragic settlement, had a Middle Geometric (PSC) skyphos associated with imported Phoenician pottery. In a codicil (543-547) added after the meeting, Nijboer gives a useful list of tombs across Italy with early Phoenician trinkets but no Greek pottery. If we assume that Villanovan and Latian princes placed the same value on Greek pottery as on Phoenician ivory, glass and gold, the grave goods serve as evidence of a brief period preceding Greek colonization. The inclusion of spits, banqueting equipment and furniture, evidence of new customs, shows that the Villanovan princes were on intimate terms with Phoenician travelers of high rank.8 (On 546, some perplexing spelling: ‘ ‘fascia’‘ must mean fasces, and ‘ ‘bulla‘ is not a hairstyle.)

R. F. Docter, H. G. Niemeyer, A. J. Nijboer, H. van der Plicht, “Radiocarbon dates of animal bones in the earliest levels of Carthage,” 557-577. This was inserted after the conference because of the importance of the findings of the Hamburg University excavations, which not only support the traditional date of the founding of Carthage (814/813 BC but hold serious implications for Greek Geometric pottery chronologies. The authors are exceptionally cautious and frank about the quality of their data—which nonetheless appear more accurate than many other sources. Excavations in the lower city of Punic Carthage, beneath the decumanus maximus of the Roman city, have furnished radiocarbon-dated bones from cattle slaughtered ca. 835-800 BC. They were mixed in trash and sewage that apparently was washed in rainwater downhill through the streets of the town, and deposited with pottery of about 50 years later, in leveling fills and paving. Along with local wares there were Greek (especially Euboean) sherds, and also Phoenician Red Slip, Attic, Corinthian and Phoenician-Iberian amphorae. The other animal bones include horse, donkey, sheep/goat, pig, dog, and fish (including sea bream).9

M. Botto, “Per una riconsiderazione della cronologia degli inizi della colonizzazione fenicia nel Mediterraneo centro-occidentale,” 579-628, offers extensive bibliography and an exhaustive analysis of Near Eastern historical sources and excavations, reprinting several published tables that correlate sites and dates. Both radiocarbon data and finds of Phoenician pottery in colonies in Spain confirm an early date for Phoenician settlement there, although the 14C dates, coming up against the Hallstatt Plateau, are not as precise as we would like. Botto discusses the problems of Levantine Low vs High chronology, and the 14C dates for an assumed conflagration at Megiddo in the time of David (1005-970 BC). The dating of Phoenician colonies hinges on the changeover from Bichrome to Red Slip pottery…a small sounding at Tyre helped to clarify the issue with finds of Euboean Protogeometric pottery in a 10th-century level, and Moroccan Lixus is beginning to furnish 14C dates that approach the literary dates for that early Phoenician colony.

Note V. Nizzo’s thoughtful comments (645-646) on the 763 BC eclipse that has been used to link Near Eastern historical dates (Assyrian annals) with Greek historians; he presents evidence for the synchronization of an eclipse (or three) linked to the figure of Romulus.

B. d’Agostino’s concluding remarks (661-663) are cautionary. The scientific systems are now well tested and reliable; we need to plug in more data and refine them by continuing to reevaluate the Italian finds. The finds of Tyre and Lefkandi make it clear that in the Aegean, Cyprus and the Near East, typologies and scientific analysis have melded neatly. In the end, most scholars (e.g. Botto, 593) reaffirmed Coldstream’s dating schema for Greek Geometric pottery, but the earliest vases in Italy are still only Middle Geometric (PSC skyphoi), thus much later than the earliest Greek material in the Levant.

Scholarly debate will certainly continue over attempts to mesh disparate types of data like radiocarbon graphs with artifact typologies, and the criticism is valid that we are for the most part forced to compare European settlement contexts with Italian funerary assemblages. On the whole, though, it does not appear that the foundations of first-millennium dating have been or will be shaken by the scientific studies. Many issues will probably be resolved or refined by fresh analyses of the contexts from which samples, both organic and manufactured, derive. The Latial 9th-century dates mainly derive from charcoal and hearths in huts at Fidenae and Satricum, and human bones from the necropolis at Castiglione (Gabii), and other types of samples might help to resolve discrepancies. For instance, more scrutiny of the Fidenae hut would be welcome, especially since other issues hinge on it. By any dating method, the oldest known domesticated cat in Europe perished in the fire in that hut.10

Of course, our cherished chronological schemes also rest on the hopeful assumption that valuable objects would have been buried soon after they were made. For instance, F. Arietti (638-641) makes a case for raising the dates of princely tombs as at Rocca di Papa, into the last quarter of the 8th century, based on parallels for the Near Eastern imports in them. Although the dates of the princely tombs have crept back slightly, say from 650 to 680 BC, this could make the Bernardini and similar tombs as much as two generations older than past scholarship assumed. (Further on princely tombs, see Nijboer, 540, and F. Arietti, 638-641.) The heirloom problem, certainly likely in princely burials, is attested among the societies of Iron Age Europe, where “striding god” figurines of Late Bronze Age Egypto-Levantine type appear to have circulated across Asia Minor and Europe for centuries. The so-called Melqart of Sciacca bronze bears a disquieting resemblance to this type, and has sometimes been taken as evidence of Late Bronze Age Phoenician/Canaanite cruising off the Sicilian coast. The Bocchoris phenomenon, which gives us tight dating of Early Orientalizing contexts because of the short reign and alleged obscurity of this pharaoh, whose souvenirs are found in numerous tombs, is still under analysis: note the comments of R. de Marinis (37 n. 80, 641-643).

Certainly, fresh scholarly respect for the Po/Upper Adriatic region has been stimulated by the recent discoveries at Verucchio and Bologna, and enhanced by European scientific dates. The ongoing study of Villanovan Veii seems to confirm the typology and chronology of the north. No article dealt directly with the sensational Verucchio tombs of the end of the 8th and 7th centuries: they are rich in organic materials, but tree-ring evidence has been compromised by the effects of an Iron Age infestation of beetles. The works of P. von Eles ( Guerriero e sacerdote, Florence 2002) and G.V. Gentili ( Verucchio villanoviana. Il sepolcreto in località Le Pegge e la necropoli al piede della Rocca Malatestiana, Rome 2003) cited once, by Nijboer and Iaia respectively, conservatively equate the oldest with the earliest princely tombs of Tyrrhenian Etruria, such as the Tomba del Guerriero (Tarquinia, late 8th century). The presence of carts, chariots and ornate cylindrical thrones in several tombs seems to precede by a generation or so their appearance in the Bernardini and Barberini Tombs of Praeneste, and should bolster various authors’ statements that there is little or no effective time-lag between a development in the Eastern Mediterranean and its dissemination throughout Italy. Note that Nuragic and Iberian materials were already present in the oldest deposits at Carthage, and that Pithekoussan and Carthaginian products of the 8th century are now recognized in other sites.

It is understandable that the editors were reluctant to intervene and aggressively edit the comments of so many well-known experts, all of whom obviously hold strong views on this subject. But there is surely an opportunity here for a synthesis of the chronological arguments and their relation to social developments in protohistoric Italy: most classicists and historians will not have read all the archaeological literature in order to form their own opinions, and it would be unfair to present this book as furnishing tidy conclusions. For the moment, it appears (and the evidence grows apace) that we can rest easy on the foundation dates of the Greek colonies—and of Carthage!—and on the Greek pottery sequences, but we still await further developments in the analysis of the Bronze to Iron transition, while the timing of full-blown Villanovan stratification, and thus the framing of first-millennium Italian society, must still be characterized on a site-by-site basis. The more precise the dating applied to Iron Age Italy, the more dynamic its social, political and technological evolution appears. It is evident that technological and social interactions with Europe flourished and no one in Italy sat waiting for foreign colonists to come and civilize them. Scholars familiar with the complexity of the Iron Age Italian cultures may not be surprised at all to find that they were well underway by 1000 BC.

[For an addendum to this review by Jean MacIntosh Turfa, please see BMCR 2007.03.19.]


1. Recent publication of studies of mitochondrial DNA supposedly linking ancient Etruscans with Asia Minor, and not with modern residents of Tuscany has further clouded this issue so cherished by the popular press. (E.M.S. Belle et al., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103 (21), May 23, 2006:8012-8017; and C. Vernesi et al., American Journal of Human Genetics 74, 2004:694-704.) In fact the studies were not co-authored by archaeologists, and their methods were seriously flawed by small sample size and the study on modern Tuscany was actually a hypothetical computer simulation. (I will review the mtDNA studies in a forthcoming issue of Etruscan News.)

2. Another problem in the calibration curve for radiocarbon dating is the related “Hallstatt plateau” of ca. 760-450 BC recognized in European sites. In fact, radiocarbon fluctuation and climate change (the tropics became more arid) are now noted worldwide. Highlights of the growing literature on this subject are: B. van Geel, J. Buurman, and H.T Waterbolk, “Archaeological and palaeoecological indications of an abrupt climate change in The Netherlands, and evidence for climatological teleconnections around 2650 BP,” Journal of Quaternary Science 11(6), 1996:451-460; W. Tinner et al., “Climatic change and contemporaneous land-use phases north and south of the Alps 2300 BC to 800 AD,” Quaternary Science Reviews 22 (14), June 2003:1447-1460; A. Speranza, B. van Geel, and J. van der Plicht, “Evidence for solar forcing of climate change at ca. 850 cal BC from a Czech peat sequence,” Global and Planetary Change 35 (1-2), January 2003:51-65; and V.A. Dergachev, O.M. Raspopov, B. van Geel, and G.I. Zaitseva, “The ‘Sterno-Etrussia’ geomagnetic excursion around 2700 BP and changes of solar activity, cosmic ray intensity, and climate,” Radiocarbon 46(2), 2004:661-681. These articles furnish a wealth of earlier and classic bibliography on the topic. Another basic work for background to the chronology and characterization of Italy ca. 1000 BC is the review article by Franco Marzatico, “150 Years of Lake-Dwelling Research in Northern Italy,” in Living on the Lake in Prehistoric Europe: 150 years of lake-dwelling research, ed. F. Menotti (London 2004) 83-97. The lengthy list of radiocarbon dates published in 1994 by Robin Skeates remains useful: “A radiocarbon date-list for prehistoric Italy (c.46,400 BP—2450 BP/400 cal. BC” in Radiocarbon Dating and Italian Prehistory, eds. R. Skeates and R. Whitehouse (London 1994) 147-288.

3. For background on the preceding period, “Recent Bronze,” see the splendid volume of proceedings, L’età del bronzo recente in Italia. Atti del Congresso Nazionale di Lido di Camaiore, 26-29 ottobre 2000, ed. D. Cocchi Genick, Lucca 2004 (almost the size of this book and marked €75!).

4.The dissenting opinion, based upon identification of some objects in the destruction layer, is registered by Oscar Muscarella (Metropolitan Museum of Art). Articles in this volume cite the online article of K. DeVries, P.I. Kuniholm, G.K. Sams and M.M. Voigt in Antiquity 77 (2003). A full publication on the subject is in press, and the latest reference is K. DeVries, “Greek Pottery in Gordion,” in L. Kealhofer, ed., The Archaeology of Midas and the Phrygians (Philadelphia 2005) 36-55 (Iron Age pottery chronology pp. 36-43). He notes that Greek imports (Corinthian Late Geometric) begin in the second half of the 8th century, offering a stylistic bridge to the Hallstatt Plateau. They first appear in the “South Cellar” which is later in date than Tumulus MM, built from juniper logs felled ca. 740 BC; since Assyrian annals show Midas reigning at least as late as 709 BC, it cannot be he who is buried in the so-called “Midas Tomb.” The connection to Italy is through cross-referencing of its metal vessels (siren-cauldron, lion rhyton, cf. Delpino 643) with Italian “princely tombs” and the palaces of Assyria. I recall with gratitude and fondness the late Keith DeVries, who generously shared his time and expertise in discussing the revised Gordion dating with me.

5. See M. Friedrich and H. Hennig, “Dendrodate for the Wehringen Iron Age wagon grave (778+/-5 BC” Journal of European Archaeology 4, 1996:281-303, with earlier references.

6. Some may read uncertainty in the nickname, but wiggle-matching is a technique for “matching radiocarbon dates to the ‘wiggles’ of the calibration curve in those situations where the age difference between the 14C dates is known,” as when tree-ring comparisons are possible. See C. Bronk Ramsay, “‘Wiggle-Matching’ Radiocarbon Dates,” Radiocarbon 43(2) 2001:381-389 (quote from abstract, p. 381).

7. See for this important structure, M. Kochavi, “The Eleventh Century BCE Tripartite Pillar Building at Tel Hadar,” in S. Gitin, A. Mazar and E. Stern (eds.), Mediterranean Peoples in Transition: in honor of Professor Trude Dothan (Jerusalem 1998) 468-478. The secure, masonry structure with three narrow rooms is a form found throughout the Levant from the mid-9th century on; it reappears in the 8th-century Phoenician colony at Toscanos, Spain. While Kochavi’s date for the Tel Hadar destruction level has been revised, his analysis of this formalized structural type and its function should be consulted for background in Mediterranean trade and colonization as well as Levantine history/archaeology.

8. He does not refer to G. Hölbl, Beziehungen der ägyptischen Kultur zu Altitalien (Leiden 1979) but furnishes much evidence that only appeared after that publication.

9. The variety of imports ab initio attests to the commercial design and expertise of the colony. The sea bream may illustrate the very early occurrence of the phenomenon of trade in Atlantic salt-fish identified in Archaic and Classical Greek sites such as Corinth and the Porticello shipwreck. (See C. K. Williams, II, “Corinth, 1978: Forum Southwest,” Hesperia 48, 1979:115-118; and C.J. Eiseman and B.S. Ridgway, The Porticello Shipwreck (College Station, Texas 1987) 42-48.

10. The contexts, including the cat skeleton, are described in Nijboer et al., Paleohistoria 41/42, 1999/2000:163-176. For photo and analysis of the cat’s remains, see A. De Santis, R. Merlo, and J. De Grossi Mazzorin, Fidene. Una casa dell’età del ferro (Ministero dei Beni Culturali e Ambientali, and Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma, Milan 1998) 44-45 figs. 62-63.