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Identity problems in Early Italy : a workshop on methodology

Final Bronze Age and social change in Veneto

Group membership, ethnicity and marginality
Elisa Perego

Résumés

This contribution proposes a theoretical framework for the investigation of ethnicity, group membership and socio-political change in the Italian region of Veneto between the Final Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age (approximately 12th – 9th centuries BC). By drawing on research in the humanities and social science emphasising the multi-faceted, culturally variable and blurred nature of ethnicity, this article will suggest that a review of current approaches to ethnic formation in late prehistoric and proto-historic Italy is needed. In particular, I will propose a shift in the focus of research from the grand-scale of ethnogenesis as discussed in relation to macro-entities such as the Etruscans, the Veneti and the Latins – to the more subtle practices of interaction and identity negotiation that took place among social agents at the micro-scale. In doing so, I will tackle the issue of whether specific forms of social inclusion and construction of group membership that are attested in Veneto during the 1st-millennium BC might have started to develop before the Final Bronze Age/ Iron Age transition. 

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Notes de l’auteur

Some theoretical issues raised at the workshop and discussed in this article have been preliminarily proposed in Perego 2013 and Perego 2014. I would like to thank the following scholars and institutions for the support provided during the preparation of this article: for discussion, feedback, collaborative work or the permission to cite unpublished work : S. Amicone, M. Saracino, R. Scopacasa, V. Tamorri, L. Zamboni, V. Zanoni and the audience of the Rome workshop ; for inviting me to the workshop and for support in Rome and afterwards : C. Smith, S. Bourdin, E. Blake, the École française de Rome and the British School at Rome; for discussion on the issue of Venetic ethnicity as presented in my doctoral thesis (Perego 2012a) : C. Riva and R. Whitehouse. Any inaccuracy in the present article remains my own.

Texte intégral

1This article proposes a theoretical framework for the investigation of ethnicity, group membership and social change in the Italian region of Veneto between the Final Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age (c. 12th – 9th centuries BC; fig. 1).

Fig. 1 – Map of Veneto with main sites and sub-regions mentioned in the article.

Fig. 1 – Map of Veneto with main sites and sub-regions mentioned in the article.

Drawn by author.

2First, I shall point out that our understanding of Veneto's ethnic milieu in late prehistory and proto-history is far from thorough, even for the time period following the spread of writing in this region from about 600-500 BC. Some limits of current approaches to ethnicity in late prehistoric and proto-historic Italy will also be explored. Furthermore, I shall note that the issue of Venetic ethnicity is even more debatable when investigating the pre-literacy phase and the Final Bronze Age time span, which was set apart from the subsequent Iron Age period by intense socio-political development, localized phenomena of crisis and changes in material culture, settlement organization and ritual. Nonetheless, elements of continuity or partial continuity can be detected in the socio-cultural framework of the region, calling into question the extent of the traditional Final Bronze Age/Early Iron Age divide in this area. In turn, this evidence draws our attention to the possibility that localized conceptions of ethnicity, group membership, identity and social affiliation may have partially persisted even during this phase of accelerated socio-political transformation.

3I shall also consider the socio-political framework in which the construction of ethnic identities in Veneto took place and its potential connections to the rise of increasingly sophisticated forms of coercive power in this region between the Final Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age. In this regard, it will be suggested that a research focus on alternative social actors such as non-élite individuals, the victims of ritual abuse and social subjects given abnormal mortuary treatments potentially indicative of extreme social marginality, may cast new light on phenomena of persistence of and/or change in localized conceptions of identity, social inclusion and social rejection. Again, this raises questions about the potential endurance or renegotiation of ethnic identities in relation to phenomena of social continuity that might have characterized the Veneto region even in phases of dramatic socio-political change.

The issue of Venetic ethnicity

  • 1 In this article, I use the word Venetic as a catch-phrase to include all the material and epigraphi (...)
  • 2 The use of the word venetico to design the supposedly coherent language attested on the so-called ‘ (...)
  • 3 Jones 1997.
  • 4 Capuis 1993, p. 23 ; Prosdocimi 2002.
  • 5 Prosdocimi 2002.
  • 6 For an overview of the existing sources see Prosdocimi 2002 and Malnati 2003
  • 7 Marinetti 2009.
  • 8 Marinetti 2009.
  • 9 On similar occurrences involving other peoples of ancient Italy see a recent overview by Scopacasa (...)
  • 10 Capuis 1993, p. 31-32.

4Before addressing the issue of ethnicity in Veneto in the transition phase between the Final Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age, a preliminary discussion focusing on the subsequent Iron Age period is needed. The recognition of ethnic identities in 1st-millennium BC north-east Italy is a thorny issue. The present discussion, therefore, is intended to highlight some key concerns on the matter of Venetic ethnicity, and not to provide a definitive solution to the problem1. Despite claims by ancient authors that a well distinct population inhabited the region, the existence of sub-regional distinctiveness is marked, even where the so-called Venetic (the venetico) is the only – or the largely predominant – language attested2. A coherent definition of ethnicity as an intentional elaboration by a group and a perception of difference between « us and them »3 is difficult for proto-historic Veneto, as emic written sources addressing this problem are virtually non-existent (but see below for the stele from Isola Vicentina). Ethnic names deriving from the Indo-European root *wenet- recur in many ancient authors to indicate different groups settled in Europe4. It remains dubious, however, whether these labels referred to real populations. Any connection with the people living in Veneto is questionable. As noted above, Graeco-Roman primary sources recognize the presence of a distinct ethnic group in the area occupied today by modern Veneto5. These people were called Enetoi or Veneti6. The degree of verisimilitude of these accounts remains disputable, especially when the issue of the Veneti’s ethnic self-definition is considered. Notably, however, recent epigraphic evidence has indicated that the Roman names of many local settlements derived from pre-existent Venetic toponyms or divine names7. This is for example the case of the site of Altino (Venice), whose Latin name (Altinum) appears to derive from the Venetic name of the male deity Altino/Altno, probably attested in a local sanctuary as early as the 6th century BC. It cannot be excluded that Altino/Altno was also the name of the pre-Roman settlement8. Similarly, we cannot exclude that the Latin name of the people was the translation of a pre-Roman form9. The insistence of the sources on peculiar aspects of ancient Veneto’s culture and topography (e.g. the importance of horse-breeding, the location of local settlements within river arms and the adoption of La Tène – Celtic – material culture in the late 1st millennium BC) is to same extent confirmed by the archaeological evidence10: this might indicate that the Greek and Roman authors who wrote about Veneto had indeed some knowledge – or even a good knowledge – of the region under consideration. Even if this was the case, however, the brevity of these accounts and their late – or relatively late – chronology in respect to the time period considered, render them problematic when tackling the issue of Venetic ethnicity. Nor less problematic is the fact that such accounts offer a perspective elaborated through the lenses of Graeco-Roman historiography and poetry, with their ideological view of the ancient peoples from Italy.

  • 11 Fought 2006.
  • 12 Pellegrini – Prosdocimi 1967 ; Pellegrini 1988 ; Marinetti 1992 ; Venetkens 2013. Prosdocimi 1988, (...)
  • 13 A review in Venetkens 2013.
  • 14 Pellegrini – Prosdocimi 1967 ; Prosdocimi 1998 ; Marinetti 1992 ; Marinetti 2008.
  • 15 On the extreme complexity of linguistic identities, the ambiguous value of language as a marker of (...)
  • 16 Lomas 2007 ; Lomas 2012.
  • 17 Venetkens 2013.
  • 18 Lomas 2012 ; on the funerary ritual see Perego 2012a.
  • 19 Protostoria Sile Tagliamento 1996 ; Fogolari – Gambacurta 2001 ; Venetkens 2013.
  • 20 During the early Roman period (c. 100 BC – 50 AD), the presence in Veneto of Italic immigrants and (...)
  • 21 Indeed, the variability of alphabetic and linguistic forms attested in different sub-regions of Ven (...)

5Another issue to consider is the complex relation between language and ethnicity11. Approximately 700 inscriptions found across the region have been taken to document the presence of a specific and well-defined Indo-European language written and presumably spoken from southern Veneto to the northern sub-region of Cadore12. The earliest Venetic inscriptions known so far are commonly held to date to c. 600-500 BC13. The Venetic language started to be replaced by Latin around the 1st century BC. This process, however, was relatively slow and numerous Venetic or Latino-Venetic inscriptions may have been still produced in the mid-1st century BC and during the Augustan Age14. However, even the adoption of a unique language over a centuries-long time span – if this was indeed the case for Iron Age Veneto – does not exclude either the presence of ethnically different groups and individuals in a region (e.g. immigrants) or the development of different forms of socio-ethnic categorization based for example on descent, religion, kinship or political affiliation15. Furthermore, the variability in terms of alphabetic traditions attested in different Venetian sub-regions suggests that writing may have been used as a means of differentiation and self-definition by different local groups or « city-states »16. Similar considerations apply to ritual and material culture: both similarities and differences are attested in the region, sometimes with notable variations across different phases of the Iron Age and different Venetian sub-regions17. Therefore, it is possible that material culture was intentionally manipulated to express statements of independence vs. ethnic and socio-political affiliation among the different groups that occupied this area18. Influences from other human groups settled in neighbouring regions – or the production of hybrid and/or localized object types – are particularly evident in fringe sub-regions such as the Vicentino, Cadore and the Veronese19. The presence of presumptive « ethnic minorities » in Veneto during the second half of the 1st millennium BC is suggested by both epigraphic and archaeological material20; in particular, the possible penetration of groups that have been deemed to be Celtic is mainly documented from the early 4th century but may have actually started earlier21.

  • 22 Boaro 2001.
  • 23 Marinetti 1999. On the Isola Vicentina stele, the term venetkens appears to have been used as a sec (...)

6Notably, the word venetkens appears on a Venetic stele found at Isola Vicentina (Vicenza), in a frontier land on the border with a region supposedly inhabited by the Raeti22. The meaning of the inscription remains partially obscure, although it has been suggested that venetkens may have referred to the Venetic ethnos23. If this interpretation is correct, this inscription would constitute a powerful statement of ethnic self-definition by the people who produced it. It would remain unclear, however, to whom, for how long and in which specific areas of (north-east) Italy this potential ethnic name was meaningful. Furthermore, the precise chronology of the inscription remains dubious.

  • 24 Mastrocinque 1987, p. 9. The use of ethnic names derived from later historical sources is evident h (...)
  • 25 Fogolari 1988, p. 15.
  • 26 Malnati 1996, p. 3 ; emphasis added. Notable in this passage is also the « political » attribution (...)

7Given the issues raised above, it is notable that strands of Italian scholarship have often taken Graeco-Roman primary sources for granted, and considered indeed Veneto to be inhabited by a well-defined ethnic group, initially called the Paleoveneti (i.e. the ancient Veneti) and then, more recently, the Veneti. For example, in his study of Iron Age Veneto’s religious practice, A. Mastrocinque wrote : « Le tribù venete erano distribuite nell’area dell’odierno Veneto, ad eccezione del Veronese, che era popolato da genti retiche. Il Friuli era meno popolato da genti venete e la gran parte di questa regione fu occupata dai Carni, un popolo di ceppo gallico » (emphasis added).24 G. Fogolari pointed out that « Presentare la protostoria dell'Italia nord orientale significa parlare essenzialmente della civiltà dei Paleoveneti, nome con cui si designano i Veneti antichi o "primi" fioriti sino all'avvento dei Romani a distinguerli dai Veneti d'oggi » (emphasis added)25. When discussing the sub-region corresponding to present-day eastern Veneto and western Friuli, L. Malnati wrote « [questo] territorio è attribuito concordemente ai Veneti fino al corso del Tagliamento, dove, secondo Loredana Capuis ... si apriva un'area « ambigua di popolamento tra Veneti e Carni », o anche più semplicemente fino al corso del Timavo, dove era il santuario di Diomede, e dove passava il confine con gli Histri. A questa interpretazione più ampia sembrano rimandare anche le conclusioni di A. Marinetti ... su base linguistica, pur in un contesto etnicamente variegato nelle sue frange nord-orientali e tenendo conto di una presenza celtica che, a partire dall'inizio del IV secolo, diviene consistente. Resta a mio giudizio molto chiaro tuttavia il controllo politico-culturale di tutto questo territorio da parte dei Veneti »26. This scholarly approach has persisted even in more recent years. For example, the main exhibition on Iron Age Veneto recently held in Padua (6 April – 17 November 2013) was entitled Venetkens. Viaggio nella Terra dei Veneti Antichi (emphasis added).

Theoretical and methodological considerations

8Having addressed the issue of Venetic ethnicity in the Iron Age, and some problems arising from recent scholarly work tackling this issue, I now propose some preliminary reflections about the nature of ethnic dynamics in late prehistoric and proto-historic northern Italy. These considerations – which can be extended to the Italian context more in general – can be summarized as follows.

  • 27 This critique to long-standing ideas about ethnic formation in the peninsula is especially directed (...)
  • 28 For a recent critique to the use of the culture-historical paradigm in Italy : Zamboni forthcoming.

91. The validity of some long-held assumptions about ethnogenesis (i.e. ethnic formation) in the Italian context may be questioned in light of archaeological and anthropological theory developed in Anglophone countries, including research carried out within the framework of contextual and post-processualist archaeologies, as well as anthropological, post-modernist, post-structuralist and post-colonial approaches to the past27; it is notable – albeit not surprising – that the penetration of these strands of archaeological and anthropological research remains poor in a country where the culture-historical paradigm is still strong28.

  • 29 Weber 1968 ; Barth 1969 ; Patterson 1975 ; Wenskus 1977 ; Smith 1986 ; Bentley 1987 ; Orywal – Hack (...)
  • 30 Jones 1997 ; Cifani – Stoddart 2012 ; Pantić 2012.
  • 31 Zamboni forthcoming.
  • 32 On these issues see for example Dench 1995 ; Scoapacasa forthcoming.
  • 33 This is not to deny the (partial) validity and usefulness of such forms of classification, especial (...)

102. Ethnicity is a form of group self-identification – often constructed in opposition to « others » – that allows developing both personal and intimate feelings of belonging vs. rejection by each single subject involved and sophisticated social practices – external and visible – of acceptance vs. exclusion at the intra- and inter-group level29. This consideration draws our attention to (a) the fluid, blurred and mutable nature of ethnicity30; (b) the significant problems that arise when researchers try to encapsulate human realities, which must have been more complex and nuanced than previously acknowledged, under general labels or macro-categories (e.g. the Etruscans, the Veneti, the Villanovan culture, the protovillanovan, the proto-Veneti) that may represent only artificial constructions by scholars31; this is especially true when such categories are derived from uncritical readings of primary historical sources, the projection of ancient written sources onto much earlier periods32, or forms of archaeological categorization based on « mechanic » classificatory methods focusing only on selected – and limited – classes of material evidence such as pottery33;

113. Hence, the issue of the scale of analysis must be considered. While emphasizing the value of a multi-scalar approach taking into consideration both large-scale and micro-scale phenomena of change occurring in Bronze Age and Iron Age Veneto, I also stress the importance of focusing on the micro-level of single sites, micro-regions or even intra-site micro-contexts: this would illuminate the « micro-histories » of people elaborating forms of social affiliation and group membership which might have been fluid, negotiable and short-lived – and yet highly relevant to the individuals that experienced them. This approach – which can be extended to the exploration of other historical phases in the Italian peninsula – would be useful to shed further light on the micro-dynamics of identity and ethnic negotiation taking place even within larger socio-cultural or ethnic entities;

  • 34 Rajala 2012 ; Scopacasa 2014 ; Scopacasa forthcoming ; on Veneto : Lomas 2012. This concept has oft (...)
  • 35 This might have been especially the case of contexts characterized by features of the landscape, su (...)
  • 36 Lomas 2012 ; Rajala forthcoming; Scopacasa forthcoming.

124. The construction of ethnic identities often overlaps and is elaborated in relation to other forms of identity, such as gender, age, family, kinship and class identities34. This issue is particularly relevant to the Italian late prehistoric context, where the possible fragmentation of human groups in smaller units (e.g. hamlets or small polities) vis-à-vis the larger aggregations (e.g. urban settlements, « states ») that developed in the subsequent Iron Age may have rendered these distinctions – elaborated at the micro-scale of an individual’s personal and family life – more important to people. However, the intersection between ethnic identity and other types of identities remained highly significant for the later proto-historic period because (a) small and isolated (or relatively isolated) communities remained widespread in many Italian regions35; (b) the elaboration of « civic » identities relating to the rise of « city-states » and politically independent urban communities must have also played a role in the construction of many people’s perceptions of affiliation and belonging36; the rise of state-level organizations – and even more complex forms of socio-political structuring such as empires – obviously does not prevent the negotiation of different forms of identity (e.g. gender identities) at the micro-scale.

  • 37 For example Hornborg – Hill 2011.

135. Anthropological research focusing on non-urban and tribal communities in Africa, Amazonia or Papua New Guinea37 suggests that ethnicity is not necessarily a product of urbanization and the rise of state-level organizations, phenomena that are better recognizable in Italy during the Iron Age; rather, it represents a form of group self-identification which can be recognized even in relation to relatively small and « simple » communities – and is therefore relevant to the Italian prehistoric context as well;

146. Hence, if ethnic formation is not necessarily to be linked to practices of identity construction in central places and regions that are deemed to have been pivotal to the socio-political development of 1st millennium BC Italy, ethnic dynamics in isolated, marginal or rural settings detached from powerful « proto-urban » and urban centres, should be paid equal attention;

  • 38 Guidi 2006 ; for the same concern see Smith 2012, p. 22.

157. Furthermore, we should consider to what extent is appropriate to discuss ethnicity in pre-Roman Italy mostly within the framework of potentially problematic concepts such as « state », « urbanisation » and « city-state », whose meaning is often uncritically accepted in Italian scholarship. Another issue to consider is the uncritical use of some of the criteria (e.g. settlement size) commonly used to detect state development and urbanization in 1st-millennium BC Italy38. One issue at stake would be to recognize the extraordinary diversity of the socio-political practices characterizing phenomena of state formation and increased social complexity in ancient Italy; this should be done in order to (a) engage more closely with inter- and intra-site variability, and social milieus more complex and fluid than usually recognized, and (b) address how the diversity of human experience and political practice influenced ethnic formation in this context.

  • 39 For example, Tullio-Altan (1995) has noted (based on ethnographic data) that different socio-econom (...)

168. Another aspect deserving further attention is the status and role of the social actors involved in processes of identity and ethnic construction. While most Italian scholarship still focuses on élite social contexts, it would be fundamental to address how marginal and non-élite social groups perceived and constructed their ethnic affiliation, or any other form of self-identification not tied to élite mechanisms of identity construction39; further research should also explore (a) how the construction of ethnicity cross-cut gender and age identities in non-élite contexts, (b) the role played by non-élite social agents in resisting coercive forms of ascription of ethnic identities and (c) how ethnicity and other forms of identity may have been negotiated and constructed in conditions of extreme social marginality.

  • 40 Fulminante 2012.
  • 41 For example, Kaestle – Horsburg 2002; Eriksson 2013. Science-based approaches to the archaeological (...)

179. Research methods based on the integration of science-based and theory-laden approaches to the archaeological evidence should be paid particular importance when investigating ethnicity40. As the construction of ethnic identities is manifested in the full range of human activities (e.g. from eating to dressing), the integration of different datasets and different kinds of evidence (e.g. food and textile remains) would prove particularly useful to shed light on forms of ethnic negotiation that remain obscure when focusing only on the selected assemblages of material culture that have received special attention by Italian scholarship (e.g. pottery and metal ornaments). In particular, science-based methods such DNA and isotope analysis represent cutting-edge approaches to ethnic-related issues such as provenance, migration and intermarriage41.

A preliminary discussion of the evidence

  • 42 The investigation of social marginality remains an understudied research topic in late prehistoric (...)
  • 43 My focus will be on burial sites from Este (PD), Padua and Frattesina (Rovigo) (for a full overview (...)

18In this section I shall discuss selected archaeological evidence in order to shed some light on dynamics of identity negotiation and social change in Veneto between the Final Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age. This preliminary analysis will focus on (1) the identification of abnormal burials that might be indicative of social exclusion and/or extreme social marginality42; (2) the structural and spatial development of selected cemetery areas in central and southern Veneto43. While I am fully aware that this analysis is far from offering an overarching interpretation of social change and ethnicity in the context examined, both themes of research are useful to address some of the issues put forward in the methodological section. In particular, the analysis of this evidence raises important questions about the dissolution vis-à-vis the persistence of conceptions of social inclusion and social rejection that might open a window into deeper and underlying ideologies of identity and group membership intersecting with ethnic formation.

  • 44 Balista-Ruta Serafini 1992 ; Balista-Ruta Serafini 1998 ; Capuis 2009 ; for a full overview see Per (...)

19An analysis of Veneto’s Iron Age funerary evidence and burial sites indicates that Venetic funerary rites were an arena for the negotiation of social inclusion, legitimacy, power and identity by different social and/or kinship groups, with both variation and persistence in ritual practice over time44. The manipulation and ritual management of the funerary space as well as the choice of specific burial rituals were crucial features of these processes of power and identity negotiation. Of particular interest for the issues tackled in this article are the following instances: 

  • 45 Salzani – Colonna 2010.
  • 46 Indeed, in Veneto the custom of burying the dead in formal burial areas located outside the settlem (...)

20- A particular emphasis was paid by the inhabitants of ancient Veneto to the placing of the dead in the landscape, with (a) the location of cemetery areas outside the settlement (fig. 2) and (b) as especially well-documented at main Venetic settlements such as Este and Padua, their formal arrangement and delimitation through the erection of boundaries, funerary roads, « monumental » stone entrances and the like (fig. 3); while these forms of management of the funerary space are more easily recognizable in the Iron Age, aspects of this funerary practice are already attested in the Final Bronze Age45 (e.g. Salzani – Colonna), testifying to the importance of formal burial in well-defined cemetery areas for these earlier communities46 (fig. 4).

Fig. 2 – Map of Iron Age Este, with location of main burial sites around the settlement area.

Fig. 2 – Map of Iron Age Este, with location of main burial sites around the settlement area.

Modified by author after Perego 2012a and Lomas 2007.

Fig. 3 – Reconstruction of burial mounds from the Iron Age Ricovero cemetery of Este, with stone boundaries.

Fig. 3 – Reconstruction of burial mounds from the Iron Age Ricovero cemetery of Este, with stone boundaries.

After Bianchin Citton et al. 1998.

Fig. 4 – Location of burial areas around Final Bronze Age Frattesina.

Fig. 4 – Location of burial areas around Final Bronze Age Frattesina.

1. Narde ; 2. Narde II ; 3. Frattesina settlement area ; 4. Fondo Zanotto.

After Salzani – Colonna 2010.

  • 47 Balista – Ruta Serafini 1998.
  • 48 Leonardi – Cupitò 2004.
  • 49 Perego forthcoming b.
  • 50 Balista – Ruta Serafini 1998.
  • 51 See also below n. 3.
  • 52 Salzani – Colonna 2010. Although this article is more focused on continuity, it is worth mentioning (...)

21- Many of the best studied Iron Age Venetic cemeteries c. 900-450 BC (e.g. Este Ricovero) were organized around a series of low mounds and low earth platforms (the so-called tumuli47or accumuli stratificati48: fig. 5) in which – or around which – the graves were erected according to complex criteria of selection that defined the appropriate location of the dead, both in the cemetery space and in the ideal social body reconstructed after death49; as especially evident in certain phases of the Iron Age50, the tombs might be disposed hierarchically in relation to the mounds in order to define the social standing and level of social inclusion granted to the deceased51 (fig. 6); notably, the first occurrences of accumuli stratificati seem to date at least to the Final Bronze Age52 (fig. 7).

Fig. 5 – Reconstruction of Iron Age burial mound from the Ricovero cemetery of Este.

Fig. 5 – Reconstruction of Iron Age burial mound from the Ricovero cemetery of Este.

Modified by author after Leonardi – Cupitò 2004.

Fig. 6a and 6b – Reconstruction of large burial mound from the Iron Age Ricovero cemetery of Este, with the most prominent graves located in the centre (Tumulus XYZ).

Fig. 6a and 6b – Reconstruction of large burial mound from the Iron Age Ricovero cemetery of Este, with the most prominent graves located in the centre (Tumulus XYZ).

After Malnati – Gamba 2003 and modified by author after Bianchin Citton et al. 1998.

Fig. 7 – Reconstruction of archaeological layers from the Narde II cemetery of Frattesina, with the cremation graves arranged in a tumulus-like structure (Sector II, stratigraphic section n. 13).

Fig. 7 – Reconstruction of archaeological layers from the Narde II cemetery of Frattesina, with the cremation graves arranged in a tumulus-like structure (Sector II, stratigraphic section n. 13).

After Salzani – Colonna 2010.

  • 53 Balista et al. 1992 ; Balista – Ruta Serafini 1998.
  • 54 For example the slaughtering of horses and potentially human beings has been noted in the Via Tiepo (...)
  • 55 The termonios deivos (i.e. the « gods of the boundary ») are mentioned on Vicenza Inscription 2 – a (...)
  • 56 Perego 2012 a ; Perego forthcoming b.
  • 57 Perego forthcoming b; for an overview : Perego 2012 a.
  • 58 Salzani – Colonna 2010 ; Saracino et al. 2014.

22- The development of practices of formal delimitation of selected cemetery areas – for example by erecting fences and stone markers on the edge of the mounds – is increasingly attested since at least the beginning of the Iron Age53; occurrences of complex ritual practices carried out for the ritual enforcement of funerary boundaries have also been documented54; notably, evidence exists that at least in the second half of the 1st millennium the boundary might have been conceptualized as a deity and/or an entity protected by supernatural powers55; hence, the sophisticated ritual activity developed for the definition of the funerary space – which often had wider resonances in religious practices carried out in the sanctuary and in settlement areas – suggests that Venetic mortuary rites may have had sacral overtones; this evidence points to the possibility that the exclusion from formally delimited funerary spaces might have been a means of discrimination between individuals and their ascribed social value56: for example, while the wealthiest and more sophisticated graves were usually erected in prominent funerary areas (e.g. the centre of collective tumuli), the simplest tombs may be placed outside the perimeter of a burial mound, in order to underline the symbolic detachment of non-élite individuals – or individuals not fully integrated in society – from the most prominent social and kinship groups governing Venetic society57; again, evidence of these practices is more easily identifiable in the Iron Age; nonetheless, the early signs of the development of this funerary ideology may date back since at least the Final Bronze Age, with the grouping of cremation burials presumably pertaining to kinship associates in mounds/clusters separated by empty spaces where simple inhumation graves or rare cremations may occasionally be placed (fig. 8)58.

Fig. 8 – Map of Frattesina Narde II Sector I: burial clusters with an apparently isolated prone burial (inhumation Tomb 13).

Fig. 8 – Map of Frattesina Narde II Sector I: burial clusters with an apparently isolated prone burial (inhumation Tomb 13).

After Salzani – Colonna 2010.

  • 59 See summary in Table 1 ; for further discussion : Perego 2012 a; Perego 2012 b ; Perego forthcoming (...)
  • 60 There is evidence that at least some inhumed individuals might have been plagued by harsh life cond (...)
  • 61 While an overarching investigation of inhumation in late prehistoric and proto-historic Veneto sugg (...)
  • 62 Saracino et al. 2014.

23- A different ritual value was probably attributed to cremation vis-à-vis inhumation rites, with the latter potentially adopted to underline the only partial integration of an individual in society, or his/her condition of extreme social marginality and social exclusion59. This might be emphasized by the different location of cremation vis-à-vis inhumation graves in the funerary space, the exclusion of some inhumed individuals from formal cemeteries and the employment of abnormal burial treatments for some buried subjects60 (fig. 9); differences between cremation and inhumation burials can also be detected in relation to the quantity and quality of grave goods, with cremation burials being far more likely to be accompanied by grave furnishings61; again, while these funerary practices are more easily recognizable from the Iron Age, « an increasing formalization and visibility of practices of funerary deviancy » – including potential forms of discrimination of people given inhumation vis-à-vis those granted cremation – have been preliminarily noted since at least the Final Bronze Age62.

Fig. 9 – Iron Age prone settlement burial from the Veronese.

Fig. 9 – Iron Age prone settlement burial from the Veronese.

After Salzani 2008.

Table 1 – Summary of normative and non-normative funerary practices from Iron Age Veneto (modified after Perego 2014; data analysis after Perego 2012a).

Normative burial ritual

Social integration*




*with social variation in relation to status, rank, affiliation etc. ?

Rare/anomalous burial ritual

Incomplete social integration ?

Social diversity ?

Deviant burial ritual

Social exclusion ?

Extreme marginality ?

Funerary rite

Cremation

inhumation

inhumation

Location

Inside formal cemetery

Inside burial cluster and/or burial mound

Outside edge of burial mound or burial cluster but in relation to it

Rarely in marginal cemetery areas

Inside formal cemetery

Outside burial cluster or edge of burial mound but in relation to it*

Marginal cemetery areas

*unclear if cases of inclusion in burial clusters/mounds may have occurred

Outside burial cluster and/or outside edge of burial mound, potentially as sacrifice burial

Marginal cemetery area

Outside formal cemetery

Settlement burial

Burial in sacrificial area

Grave goods

Usually present

Occurrences of extremely rich burial assemblages

Present but usually scanty

No grave goods

Usually no grave goods

Association with debris, dismembered/disarticulated animal remains, remains of feasting and sacrificial practices

Body posture

Supine

Flexed ?

Crouched ?

Prone (face-down)

Hasty interment

Evidence of binding ?

Body treatment

Cremated bones usually placed in cinerary urn

Body buried intact

Body buried intact

Body buried incomplete

Disarticulation, mutilation

Dismemberment ?

Deposition of isolated body parts or single bones

Tomb structure

Urns placed in pits, stone or wooden rectangular containers, ceramic vases or other perishable containers

Rectangular pit

Burial shroud

Wooden container ?

Pit too small or too large for complete human body

Atypical shape of burial pit

Body under house floor

Body left on house floor

Body in ‘discard’ pit

Body in ‘sacrificial’ pit Bones left on house floor

Health status

Rare occurrences of metabolic disease and musculoskeletal stress

Cribra orbitalia, cribra cranii, carious lesions, rickets, evidence of musculoskeletal stress, enamel hypoplasia

Cribra orbitalia, enamel hypoplasia, Harris lines, dental lesions, evidence of musculoskeletal stress; occurrences of handicap and physical deformities

  • 63 On Frattesina see for example De Min 1982 ; De Min 1986 ; De Min 1987 ; Bietti Sestieri 1984 ; De G (...)
  • 64 Salzani – Colonna 2010 ; for a review of occurrences of funerary deviancy in Final Bronze Age and E (...)

24A preliminary analysis of funerary evidence from the important commercial hub of Frattesina di Fratta Polesine (Rovigo)63 indicates that practices of ritual abuse and abnormal mortuary behaviour were already attested in the Final Bronze Age64. While for the brevity of this article it is impossible to assess all the data available, we can note that :

  • 65 Salzani – Colonna 2010 ; Perego et al. in press 2015 with bibliography.
  • 66 For a review of the data available : Perego 2012 a.
  • 67 Bietti Sestieri 2011 ; Salzani 2011.
  • 68 See for example Bietti Sestieri 2011, p. 404-406.
  • 69 Cardarelli 2009 ; Cremaschi 2009.
  • 70 For some preliminary observations see however Saracino et al. 2014; see also Bietti Sestieri 2011, (...)

25- Inhumation burials may account for around 2-10 % of the several hundreds of graves – mostly cremations – attested at the three burial sites presently known at Frattesina, namely Fondo Zanotto, Narde I and Narde II65. Cremation was also by far the commonest visible funerary rite attested in Iron Age Veneto66 ; the spread of cremation rites coupled with a severe decline in the adoption of inhumation is attested in Veneto since the Recent Bronze Age and reached its climax in the Final Bronze Age67 ; the meaning of this drastic change in funerary practice remains partially obscure, although it might have been related to major changes in the funerary ideology as well as the socio-political and socio-economic arrangement of the region68 ; it must be noted that the 12th century BC has already been identified as a phase of crisis and dramatic change in northern Italy, characterized, among other phenomena, by the collapse of the Terramare settlement system69 ; the potential relation between these phenomena of crisis and changes in funerary ritual, funerary ideology, and the rise of different forms of ritual management of the human body – materialized in the more widespread adoption of practices of abnormal mortuary behaviour from the Final Bronze Age – remains mainly unexplained70

  • 71 Salzani – Colonna 2010, p. 27.

26- As noted above, the cremations coalesced in clusters of variable size and density, where the tombs (cinerary urns deposited in pits) were disposed of in several superimposed layers almost to form small tumuli71 (fig. 10).

Fig. 10a – Narde II cemetery from Frattesina : Map of Sector II with burial clusters and inhumation Tombs 223 and 227.

Fig. 10a – Narde II cemetery from Frattesina : Map of Sector II with burial clusters and inhumation Tombs 223 and 227.

After Salzani – Colonna 2010.

Fig. 10b – Reconstruction of archaeological layers from the Narde II cemetery of Frattesina, Sector III, with the cremation graves arranged in a tumulus-like structure.

Fig. 10b – Reconstruction of archaeological layers from the Narde II cemetery of Frattesina, Sector III, with the cremation graves arranged in a tumulus-like structure.

After Salzani – Colonna 2010.

  • 72 Salzani – Colonna 2010.
  • 73 It must be noted, however, that the cremation tombs dating to the Final Bronze Age were less likely (...)

27- All the inhumation burials published to date from Frattesina were deprived of visible grave goods or were accompanied by extremely scanty grave assemblages only (e.g. a bronze ring or an earring)72. This evidence finds a comparison in Iron Age inhumation burials characterized by other deviant attributes such as the exclusion from the formal burial ground, evidence of mistreatment of the corpse or the prone position73.

28- Inhumations might be located on the margins of the clusters or in the empty areas between the mounds. One body – pertaining to a woman aged around 50 at death – appears to have been placed in a ditch (Narde II Tomb 227 : fig. 11).

Fig. 11 – Tomb 227 from the Narde II cemetery of Frattesina.

Fig. 11 – Tomb 227 from the Narde II cemetery of Frattesina.

After Salzani – Colonna 2010.

29- Occurrences of prone burial, hasty interment and burial in abnormal body postures often characterized the inhumations deposited in isolation or in relative isolation. Many of these abnormal burial features tended to recur together, further underlining the anomalous character of these graves, which might have belonged to individuals marginalized to different degrees by their burying group (fig. 12).

Fig. 12a – Tomb 223 from the Narde II cemetery of Frattesina.

Fig. 12a – Tomb 223 from the Narde II cemetery of Frattesina.

After Salzani – Colonna 2010.

Fig. 12b – Reconstruction of Tomb 25 from the Narde II cemetery of Frattesina : burial of presumptive 13-14 year-old individual.

Fig. 12b – Reconstruction of Tomb 25 from the Narde II cemetery of Frattesina : burial of presumptive 13-14 year-old individual.

After Salzani – Colonna 2010.

30While the precise reasons motivating the adoption of these anomalous burial practices remain unclear, it is possible that individuals pertaining to low-ranking social segments or perceived to be different by their burying community were denied proper funerary rites and full group membership. As noted above, occurrences of this kind are also attested in the Iron Age, suggesting that some aspects of the funerary ideology characterizing Veneto in the 1st millennium BC might pre-date the Final Bronze Age/Iron Age transition.

Conclusion

31This article raised some theoretical and methodological concerns about ethnic formation in late prehistoric and proto-historic Italy, with a focus on Veneto. After reviewing some major issues concerning Venetic ethnicity, I have proposed a preliminary discussion of selected funerary evidence from Final Bronze Age and Iron Age Veneto in order to cast light on the possible persistence of ideological forms of construction of social rejection vis-à-vis social inclusion that might have been related to major concerns about group membership in this area.

  • 74 Perego forthcoming b.

32At main Iron Age Venetic settlements such as Este and Padua, the monumentalization and rigorous arrangement of the cemetery space, the hierarchical disposition of the graves in often accurately delimited collective mounds or burial spaces, the disproportion in wealth, structure and ritual complexity between the tombs and the appropriation of restricted segments of the graveyard by selected groups of mourners demonstrate that cemeteries were loci of construction of social disparity74. The placing of the graves in the funerary landscape, therefore, became a means to underline the social standing of the dead and their burying group – and was tied up to dynamics of power negotiation that took place in the wider society. Within this ideological framework, the exclusion or the inclusion of the deceased in formally delimited funerary spaces as well the adoption of specific burial rites (e.g. inhumation vis-à-vis cremation) represented the materialization of forms of power control and identity negotiation that resulted in some individuals to be granted formal élite burial in prominent segments of the funerary space. The inhumation rite – either intentionally selected by or enforced upon some groups and individuals – appears to have reflected a wide range of social and ritual behaviours, including cases of abuse of the corpse that determined the ideological marginalization of some individuals at the time of their interment ; potentially, the adoption of such practices might have reflected the abnormal status of the deceased also in life, and the enforcement of strict social boundaries between the powerful who were granted formal élite burial in the cemetery and the victims of ritual abuse and extreme social exclusion.

  • 75 Furthermore, the apparent rarity of infant graves at Frattesina (Cavazzuti 2008-2010 ; Salzani – Co (...)

33This funerary ideology expressing deep concerns about the role of the individual in his or her burying group appears to start developing in the time period preceding the transition between the Final Bronze Age and the Iron Age. This is suggested, for example, by funerary evidence from the cemeteries of Frattesina : here, the grouping of cremation tombs in dense clusters separated by empty spaces seems to empathize the strong ties existing within the different social segments and/or kinship groups that buried their dead together, and decided to include them in accurately selected areas of the cemetery. By contrast, the different ritual adopted for the buried individuals – especially for those whose funerary treatment might reflect forms of abuse of the corpse – conveys an idea of diversity and may have entailed forms of partial or complete social exclusion75. The persistence of these ritual practices emphasizing diversity discloses the existence, in ancient Veneto, of general understandings of humanity and social affiliation which entailed the creation of a gap between those given full integration in society and those denied it. Despite the huge changes recognizable in the socio-political and socio-economic arrangement of Venetic society in late prehistory and proto-history, forms of persistence in ritual, material culture and funerary ideology can be detected between the phase in which an idea of veneticità – Venetic ethnic identity – might have started to develop in the second half of the 1st millennium BC and the earliest phases of the Iron Age. From there, a fil rouge in ritual practice and funerary ideology is also evident with the Final Bronze Age, while a more evident gap seems attested in relation to previous phases of the Bronze Age. The evidence preliminarily discussed in this article, therefore, opens a window into the long-term processes of socio-political development that took place in Veneto in the late 2nd and the early 1st millennium BC, and involved the rise of culturally specific forms of social hierarchy, inequality and ritual violence in this area ; it also draws our attention to the relation between power and notions of social inclusion and group membership in the crucial phase that stretched between the so-called « crisis of the 12th century » and the beginning of the Iron Age.

34As I have noted in the methodological section of this article, it might be worthy to shift the focus of research on ethnicity in proto-historic Italy from the grand-scale of ethnogenesis as discussed in relation to macro-entities such as the Etruscans, the Latins etc. – to the more subtle practices of interaction and identity negotiation that took place among social agents at the micro-scale. If ethnicity can be indeed conceptualized as a form of group membership entailing a perception of difference between « us and them », it might be important to explore forms of affiliation, social inclusion and belonging that were already developing in the Final Bronze and remained relevant in later phases, when the creation of more substantial ethnic identities might have been underway. Notably, violence and marginalization seem to have played an important role in these dynamics of identity construction. We may wonder to what extent antagonism, rejection and exclusion were relevant to the creation of ethnicity in Veneto, too.

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Notes

1 In this article, I use the word Venetic as a catch-phrase to include all the material and epigraphic evidence pertaining to this research and possibly relating to the main ethnic group that might have inhabited the region under study between late prehistory and the early Roman period (c. 100 BC – AD 50). Obviously, the use of this terminology of convenience does not ignore either the presence of ethnically diverse individuals in the region or the possibility that complex forms of socio-cultural hybridization and ethnic categorization developed in Veneto over the period considered, especially in phases of dramatic socio-political change (e.g. Romanization) and in frontier areas such as Cadore (e.g. Fogolari – Gambacurta 2001). For a recent overview of ethnicity in ancient Italy, including Veneto : Bourdin 2012 (see also the contributions on Italy in Cifani – Stoddart 2012).

2 The use of the word venetico to design the supposedly coherent language attested on the so-called ‘Venetic’ inscriptions has been coined by G. B. Pellegrini and F. Cordenons (Prosdocimi 1988, p. 225). The words enetikes and enetiken are attested in Alcman (fragment 1 Diehl) and Strabo (XIII, 1, 53). 

3 Jones 1997.

4 Capuis 1993, p. 23 ; Prosdocimi 2002.

5 Prosdocimi 2002.

6 For an overview of the existing sources see Prosdocimi 2002 and Malnati 2003

7 Marinetti 2009.

8 Marinetti 2009.

9 On similar occurrences involving other peoples of ancient Italy see a recent overview by Scopacasa (forthcoming).

10 Capuis 1993, p. 31-32.

11 Fought 2006.

12 Pellegrini – Prosdocimi 1967 ; Pellegrini 1988 ; Marinetti 1992 ; Venetkens 2013. Prosdocimi 1988, 225 (emphasis added) : « La lingua attestata dalle iscrizioni preromane del Veneto … in varietà locali … con un carattere fondamentalmente unitario … netta struttura indeuropea ».

13 A review in Venetkens 2013.

14 Pellegrini – Prosdocimi 1967 ; Prosdocimi 1998 ; Marinetti 1992 ; Marinetti 2008.

15 On the extreme complexity of linguistic identities, the ambiguous value of language as a marker of ethnicity and its possible use as an instrument of power and discrimination see for example Bourdieu 1991 ; Fought 2006 ; Pupavac 2006 ; Pantić 2012.

16 Lomas 2007 ; Lomas 2012.

17 Venetkens 2013.

18 Lomas 2012 ; on the funerary ritual see Perego 2012a.

19 Protostoria Sile Tagliamento 1996 ; Fogolari – Gambacurta 2001 ; Venetkens 2013.

20 During the early Roman period (c. 100 BC – 50 AD), the presence in Veneto of Italic immigrants and veterans is demonstrated by the epigraphic evidence (e.g. Buchi 1992).

21 Indeed, the variability of alphabetic and linguistic forms attested in different sub-regions of Veneto, coupled with the relative scarcity of the overall corpus, may call into question the extent to which the Venetic can be considered the « coherent » language described by mainstream Italian scholarship. This issue would deserve further consideration in future research. Prosdocimi 1988 ; Marinetti 1992 ; Fogolari – Gambacurta 2001 ; Solinas 2002.

22 Boaro 2001.

23 Marinetti 1999. On the Isola Vicentina stele, the term venetkens appears to have been used as a second name (appositivo) for a male individual called Iats (i.e. iats venetkens osts ke enogenes laions me_u_fasto: Iats Venetkens Osts and Enogenes Laions made me, that is made/erected the stele or the structure to which the stele was attached). A. Marinetti (1999, p. 410) writes about venetkens : « [si tratta di un nome] derivato da una base veneto- che, pur con tutte le cautele, non può non essere riconosciuto come l’etnico dei ‘Veneti’ ». It must be noted, however, that the onomastic formula associated with Iats in Marinetti’s main interpretation of the text is anomalous and represents to date a unique occurrence in the Venetic corpus (i.e. a personal name followed by four appositivi instead of one or maximum two as it was customary). While the anomalous structure of Iats’ name may indeed be indicative of the peculiarity of his social status or ethnic affiliation (see Marinetti 1999), different interpretations of the text are possible (e.g. an inscription mentioning two people, a hypothesis discussed and rejected by Marinetti 1999 on the ground that the verb fasto would be singular).

24 Mastrocinque 1987, p. 9. The use of ethnic names derived from later historical sources is evident here. Also notable is the use of the term « tribe » to define a social reality which may not necessarily correspond – and most likely did not – to the socio-political implications of this term.

25 Fogolari 1988, p. 15.

26 Malnati 1996, p. 3 ; emphasis added. Notable in this passage is also the « political » attribution of this territory to the Veneti, a claim which is not supported by the archaeological and epigraphic evidence known to date. In my opinion, the latter remains insufficient to develop any clear-cut speculation about the political organization of this area for most of the 1st millennium BC.

27 This critique to long-standing ideas about ethnic formation in the peninsula is especially directed towards research carried out in Italy. This is not to say that Italian scholarship is completely unaware of the complexity of practices of ethnic negotiation. For example, Gambari (2008, p. 11), while discussing the issue of ethnicity in north-west Italy and Liguria, pointed out that « Quindi, se da una parte i Liguri fanno ormai ampiamente parte nelle principali sintesi di quel grande mondo celtico, esteso linguisticamente dall'Europa centrale all'Italia nord-occidentale e alla Spagna, dall'altra l'attenzione degli studiosi tende a spostarsi sul campo, molto più insidioso, dell'autocoscienza dell'identità etnica » (emphasis added). It is notable, however, that entities such as the « Ligurians » and the « Celtic world » are still taken as given categories. Archaeological research carried out in the Anglophone academic setting is generally more influenced by international debates in the humanities and social sciences (e.g. Cifani – Stoddart 2012 ; Scopacasa 2014 ; Scopacasa in press ; Scopacasa forthcoming ; for similar considerations about the development of gender archaeology in Italy : Dommasnes – Montón-Subías 2012). For a recent overview of ethnicity in pre-Roman Italy : Bourdin 2012.

28 For a recent critique to the use of the culture-historical paradigm in Italy : Zamboni forthcoming.

29 Weber 1968 ; Barth 1969 ; Patterson 1975 ; Wenskus 1977 ; Smith 1986 ; Bentley 1987 ; Orywal – Hackstein 1993 ; Tullio-Altan 1995 ; Jones 1997 ; Hall 1997.

30 Jones 1997 ; Cifani – Stoddart 2012 ; Pantić 2012.

31 Zamboni forthcoming.

32 On these issues see for example Dench 1995 ; Scoapacasa forthcoming.

33 This is not to deny the (partial) validity and usefulness of such forms of classification, especially in descriptive terms, or when focusing – for example – on the diffusion of archaeological artefacts.

34 Rajala 2012 ; Scopacasa 2014 ; Scopacasa forthcoming ; on Veneto : Lomas 2012. This concept has often been subsumed under the notion of « nested identities ». In his discussion of identity in Samnium, Scopacasa (2014) notes « the concept of « nested identities » is useful … as it highlights the fact that individuals have multiple affiliations that overlap – i.e. one belongs to a given family, gender and social class, resides in a given town or area, which is situated in a given region or country. Instead of a single tier of identity, people… will have negotiated their belonging to overlapping social groups and institutions, and activated these different identities depending on the historical context ».

35 This might have been especially the case of contexts characterized by features of the landscape, such as mountains and hills, which rendered human inhabitation more difficult and, therefore, generated different forms of interaction between people (see for example Rajala 2012 ; Scopacasa 2014 on identity negotiation in the rural districts of Samnium).

36 Lomas 2012 ; Rajala forthcoming; Scopacasa forthcoming.

37 For example Hornborg – Hill 2011.

38 Guidi 2006 ; for the same concern see Smith 2012, p. 22.

39 For example, Tullio-Altan (1995) has noted (based on ethnographic data) that different socio-economic segments develop their own ideas of what ethnic identity is about; in particular, he pointed out that poorer people tend to emphasize the notion of shared origins or homeland; by contrast, the élite tend to focus more on shared cultural customs, language and behavioral conventions (Scopacasa pers. comm.).

40 Fulminante 2012.

41 For example, Kaestle – Horsburg 2002; Eriksson 2013. Science-based approaches to the archaeological evidence still need to find widespread adoption in some strands of Italian archaeology, although the situation is improving. Difficulties in accessing funding must be taken into account in this regard. However, even when funding is available for such analyses, a focus on research themes such as ethnicity and identity remains rare (see for example the numerous works presented at the IIPP 2013 Conference on Veneto : IIPP 2013). A partial exception is represented by osteological analysis aimed at identifying the biological age and sex of the deceased, which may lead to sophisticated reflection on social differentiation based on gender and age (e.g. Bianchin Citton et al. 1998 ; Chieco Bianchi – Calzavara Capuis 2006 ; von Eles 2007).

42 The investigation of social marginality remains an understudied research topic in late prehistoric Mediterranean archaeology. For research on marginality and social exclusion in late prehistoric and proto-historic Italy (2nd and 1st millennia BC) see however Perego 2012 a ; Perego 2014; Perego forthcoming a/b; Perego et al. forthcoming in press 2015; Perego – Scopacasa forthcoming; Saracino et al. 2014; Saracino – Zanoni 2014. For research on the relation between the adoption of abnormal mortuary practices and social exclusion see also Saracino 2009 ; Perego 2012 b ; Zamboni – Zanoni 2010 ; Zanoni 2011 ; on funerary deviancy in the Italian context more in general see for example Bartoloni – Benedettini 2007-2008 ; Belcastro – Ortalli 2010. On funerary deviancy and abnormal mortuary behaviour outside Italy see Murphy 2008 ; Reynolds 2009 ; Tamorri 2012. The investigation of social marginality in ancient Italy is also the focus of research I am carrying out, or I have carried out, within the framework of the « Micro-political approaches to social inequality : Case studies from first-millennium BC Italy » Project (2013-2014 Ralegh Radford Rome Fellowship at the British School at Rome) ; the « IN or OUT » Project, co-coordinated with M. Saracino, L. Zamboni and V. Zanoni (Saracino et al. 2014; Perego et al. in press 2015) ; the research network « Collapse or survival? Micro-dynamics of crisis, change and socio-political endurance in the first-millennium BC central Mediterranean » (co-coordinated with R. Scopacasa and S. Amicone). Research on exclusion from formal burial as a potential indicator of incomplete social inclusion has also involved the study of child tombs and the lack of infant burials in late prehistoric, proto-historic and Roman Italy (e.g. Nizzo 2011).

43 My focus will be on burial sites from Este (PD), Padua and Frattesina (Rovigo) (for a full overview, with bibliography : Perego 2012 a).

44 Balista-Ruta Serafini 1992 ; Balista-Ruta Serafini 1998 ; Capuis 2009 ; for a full overview see Perego 2012 a.

45 Salzani – Colonna 2010.

46 Indeed, in Veneto the custom of burying the dead in formal burial areas located outside the settlement pre-dates the Final Bronze Age (e.g. de Marinis 2003; Salzani 2005). Stone cippi and a large irregular stone that might have represented tomb markers and a marker for the boundary of the cemetery, respectively, have been found at the Frattesina burial site of Narde II (Salzani – Colonna 2010).

47 Balista – Ruta Serafini 1998.

48 Leonardi – Cupitò 2004.

49 Perego forthcoming b.

50 Balista – Ruta Serafini 1998.

51 See also below n. 3.

52 Salzani – Colonna 2010. Although this article is more focused on continuity, it is worth mentioning that transformations in the spatial organization of the cemeteries – including in the shape, size and structure of the mounds – have been related to changes in both the wider socio-political structuring of Iron Age Veneto and local ideologies of social inclusion and group membership (e.g. Balista – Ruta Serafini 1998 ; Perego 2012 a). Changes in the spatial structuring of Venetian burial sites between the Final Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age have been preliminarily addressed in order to shed light on phenomena of continuity vis-à-vis transformation in this crucial phase of socio-political evolution (for a review : Perego 2012 a).

53 Balista et al. 1992 ; Balista – Ruta Serafini 1998.

54 For example the slaughtering of horses and potentially human beings has been noted in the Via Tiepolo cemetery of Padua, c. 600 BC, for the erection of the so-called Tumulus A (Venetkens 2013).

55 The termonios deivos (i.e. the « gods of the boundary ») are mentioned on Vicenza Inscription 2 – a votive inscription presumably incised on a stone border marker found in the Vicentino (Pellegrini – Prosdocimi 1967, p. 382-387 ; see Piccaluga 1974 on the Roman god Terminus).

56 Perego 2012 a ; Perego forthcoming b.

57 Perego forthcoming b; for an overview : Perego 2012 a.

58 Salzani – Colonna 2010 ; Saracino et al. 2014.

59 See summary in Table 1 ; for further discussion : Perego 2012 a; Perego 2012 b ; Perego forthcoming a/b ; 2014; Perego et al. in press 2015; Saracino et al. 2014.

60 There is evidence that at least some inhumed individuals might have been plagued by harsh life conditions, including food deprivation, disease, pre-mortem and peri-mortem violence, and involvement in heavy physical tasks (e.g. Catalano et al. 2010 ; Onisto 2004 ; table 1). These data have been tentatively linked to the possibility that during the Iron Age inhumation might have been often reserved for marginal and low-ranking social segments (e.g. Saracino 2009 ; Zanoni 2011 ; Perego 2012a ; Perego et al. in press 2015). Further research is however needed to substantiate this hypothesis, also for the relatively scanty palaeopathological data available for the cremations.

61 While an overarching investigation of inhumation in late prehistoric and proto-historic Veneto suggests that inhumation rites might have been used to mark conditions of incomplete social integration, the variability of ritual practices surrounding each single burial casts light on the complexity of Venetic mortuary rituals (e.g. Perego forthcoming b). Indeed, while several Iron Age inhumation burials from Veneto display striking deviant attributes (see table 1), it remains unclear to what extent inhumation might have been a marker of marginality and extreme social exclusion per se (i.e. when not accompanied by other deviant ritual features such as settlement or prone burial) (see Perego 2012 a ; Perego 2014 ; Saracino et al. 2014). Further attention, for example, should be given to funerary rituals in Iron Age Padua, where the percentage of inhumation in respect to cremation tombs seems higher than at other Venetic centres, and where relatively rich inhumation burials are attested; unfortunately, the precise location of many inhumation burials in relation to the mounds or burial clusters is unclear due to a lack of published evidence or the poor preservation of some contexts (e.g. Gamba – Tuzzato 2008 ; Michelini 2005 ; Ruta Serafini 1990 ; Venetkens 2013). Particularly significant is however the evidence preliminarily known from the Via Umberto I cemetery (Palazzo Emo Capodilista), where the placing and treatment of the inhumation burials dating to the first phases of uses of this cemetery (Early Iron Age) do not reveal any clear evidence of marginalization vis-à-vis the cremations. This cemetery, however, remains mostly unpublished (see a recent report in IIPP 2013).

62 Saracino et al. 2014.

63 On Frattesina see for example De Min 1982 ; De Min 1986 ; De Min 1987 ; Bietti Sestieri 1984 ; De Guio et al. 2009.

64 Salzani – Colonna 2010 ; for a review of occurrences of funerary deviancy in Final Bronze Age and Early Iron Age Veneto, including cases from Frattesina, see Perego 2012 a ; Saracino et al. 2014; Saracino – Zanoni 2014. Notably, potential occurrences of funerary deviancy (e.g. prone burial) are already attested in previous phases of the Bronze Age, since at least the Middle and the Recent Bronze Age; the precise meaning of these practices, however, remains obscure (for some preliminary observations see Saracino et al. 2014).

65 Salzani – Colonna 2010 ; Perego et al. in press 2015 with bibliography.

66 For a review of the data available : Perego 2012 a.

67 Bietti Sestieri 2011 ; Salzani 2011.

68 See for example Bietti Sestieri 2011, p. 404-406.

69 Cardarelli 2009 ; Cremaschi 2009.

70 For some preliminary observations see however Saracino et al. 2014; see also Bietti Sestieri 2011, with a focus on changes in funerary rituals involving the male segment of the community and in particular presumptive male leaders.

71 Salzani – Colonna 2010, p. 27.

72 Salzani – Colonna 2010.

73 It must be noted, however, that the cremation tombs dating to the Final Bronze Age were less likely to be accompanied by grave goods in respect to those dating to the Iron Age, when the placing of a visible funerary assemblage with the dead appears to have been a normative feature of cremation funerary rites (e.g. Perego 2014). The lack of rich funerary furnishings in Finale Bronze Age inhumation tombs is therefore less significant to draw a strict line between cremation and inhumation in this phase.

74 Perego forthcoming b.

75 Furthermore, the apparent rarity of infant graves at Frattesina (Cavazzuti 2008-2010 ; Salzani – Colonna 2010) suggests that not all individuals might have received formal burial in the cemetery : potentially, this indicates that even more extreme forms of social exclusion might have been at play at this site (on the issue of formal burial in Bronze Age northern Italy : Cavazzuti 2008-2010 ; on the Iron Age : Zanoni 2011 ; Perego 2014, with a focus on Veneto).

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1 – Map of Veneto with main sites and sub-regions mentioned in the article.
Crédits Drawn by author.
Titre Fig. 2 – Map of Iron Age Este, with location of main burial sites around the settlement area.
Crédits Modified by author after Perego 2012a and Lomas 2007.
Titre Fig. 3 – Reconstruction of burial mounds from the Iron Age Ricovero cemetery of Este, with stone boundaries.
Crédits After Bianchin Citton et al. 1998.
Titre Fig. 4 – Location of burial areas around Final Bronze Age Frattesina.
Légende 1. Narde ; 2. Narde II ; 3. Frattesina settlement area ; 4. Fondo Zanotto.
Crédits After Salzani – Colonna 2010.
Titre Fig. 5 – Reconstruction of Iron Age burial mound from the Ricovero cemetery of Este.
Crédits Modified by author after Leonardi – Cupitò 2004.
Titre Fig. 6a and 6b – Reconstruction of large burial mound from the Iron Age Ricovero cemetery of Este, with the most prominent graves located in the centre (Tumulus XYZ).
Crédits After Malnati – Gamba 2003 and modified by author after Bianchin Citton et al. 1998.
Titre Fig. 7 – Reconstruction of archaeological layers from the Narde II cemetery of Frattesina, with the cremation graves arranged in a tumulus-like structure (Sector II, stratigraphic section n. 13).
Crédits After Salzani – Colonna 2010.
Titre Fig. 8 – Map of Frattesina Narde II Sector I: burial clusters with an apparently isolated prone burial (inhumation Tomb 13).
Crédits After Salzani – Colonna 2010.
Titre Fig. 9 – Iron Age prone settlement burial from the Veronese.
Crédits After Salzani 2008.
Titre Fig. 10a – Narde II cemetery from Frattesina : Map of Sector II with burial clusters and inhumation Tombs 223 and 227.
Crédits After Salzani – Colonna 2010.
Titre Fig. 10b – Reconstruction of archaeological layers from the Narde II cemetery of Frattesina, Sector III, with the cremation graves arranged in a tumulus-like structure.
Crédits After Salzani – Colonna 2010.
Titre Fig. 11 – Tomb 227 from the Narde II cemetery of Frattesina.
Crédits After Salzani – Colonna 2010.
Titre Fig. 12a – Tomb 223 from the Narde II cemetery of Frattesina.
Crédits After Salzani – Colonna 2010.
Titre Fig. 12b – Reconstruction of Tomb 25 from the Narde II cemetery of Frattesina : burial of presumptive 13-14 year-old individual.
Crédits After Salzani – Colonna 2010.
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Référence électronique

Elisa Perego, « Final Bronze Age and social change in Veneto », Mélanges de l'École française de Rome - Antiquité [En ligne], 126–2 | 2014, mis en ligne le 18 décembre 2014, consulté le 25 juillet 2017. URL : http://mefra.revues.org/2503 ; DOI : 10.4000/mefra.2503

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Auteur

Elisa Perego

UCL Institute of Archaeology – e.perego[at]ucl.ac.uk

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