Among the cultures attributed to the early Bronze Age (ca. 2300-1700 BC), the best known is the culture of Polada (➔ # 10132;).
In central Italy, the data relating to the early Bronze Age are extremely uncertain and fragmentary. In Tuscany and Emilia appears a facies that takes its name from the Asciano deposit, near Pisa, defined by the presence of Polada-type ceramics associated with engraved ceramics in the tradition of the bell-shaped glass. In Lazio, in the Palidorofield the average levels gave ceramics with characteristics that recall the culture of Polada.
The early Bronze Age of the Italy southern is represented by the continuation of the facies of Cellino San Marco, whose ceramic repertoire shows similarities with Piano Quartara and with Polada. Among the main types there are lenticular keeled bowls and decorated biconical jars or jugs. As for the diffusion of bronze, with the exception of Italy in the north, where the discovery of metal objects in inhabited areas is quite common, in the rest of the peninsula the bronzes attributable to this period appear almost exclusively in closets. The typology of these artifacts, singularly homogeneous throughout the Italian territory and closely linked to the most ancient cultures of the European Bronze Age, is an indication of the emergence of a craftsmanship in possession of techniques and models with a very wide diffusion area,
In Sicily the cultural picture of the ancient Bronze Age is complex and articulated. The Castelluccio culture flourishes in theeast and south (➔ # 10132;). In the north-western territory of the island, the Moarda culture develops, with pottery in the style of the bell-shaped glass of Iberian influence. The early Bronze Age of the Aeolian Islands is represented by the Capo Graziano culture (➔ # 10132;).
During the Middle Bronze Age (c. 1700-1350 BC) a relative cultural unit was established in the central and southern regions of the peninsula.
The Apennine civilization, which is now developing from Emilia to Puglia, is characterized by a predominantly pastoral type of economy; this is evident not only from the faunal remains, but also from the mountainous or submontane position of most of the deposits, distributed along the Apennine chain, and from the recurring presence of elements connected with the processing of milk. Of great importance for the chronological framing of the Apennine civilization and in general of the entire Italian Bronze Age is the presence, especially in the southern regions, in Sicily and in the Aeolian Islands, of abundant Mycenaean imported ceramics, which allows us to date the contexts in which it appears for a period of time between the 16th and 11th centuries. This intense Mycenaean frequentation of the Italian coasts must be placed in a framework of traffic and commercial relations in which the Italy it probably represented both the place of origin of some raw materials, and the intermediate stage that connected the Aegean with the most distant regions of Europe.
In the Emilia region west of the Panaro, the terramaric culture (➔terramare) developed during the Middle Bronze Age. Particularities similar to those of this culture can be seen, during this period, in the pile-dwelling cultures of the Po Valley. In this area, next to the burial rite, the cremation already appears (necropolis of Povegliano and Monte Lonato).
The Middle Bronze Age in Sicily and the Aeolian Islands is represented by the related cultures of Thapsos(➔ # 10132;) and Milazzese (➔ # 10132;).
The Nuragic civilization begins in Sardinia, whose most ancient phase, corresponding approximately to the Middle Bronze Age, is attributed the culture of Bonnanaro (➔ # 10132;), essentially pastoral.
With the recent Bronze Age (c. 1350-1200 BC) profound transformations took place in the Italian cultural framework, similar to those that archaeological sources testify for the civilization of the urn fields of continental Europe. Two facts in particular characterize this age: the multiplication of settlements and, in general, an increase in the population, and a great increase, throughout the Italian territory, of bronze metallurgy. These phenomena both reflect economic transformations, in particular an improvement in agricultural techniques, based largely on the development of metallurgy, and coincide with the emergence of new aristocratic social classes that will consolidate during the subsequent Iron Age. In the area of the Apennine civilization there is, between the Middle and Recent Bronze Age, a clear cultural continuity, which manifests itself in the settlements, in the types of burials and in numerous other aspects. However, the sub-Apennine facies, attributable in principle to the recent Bronze Age, sees some transformations, the most evident of which is the substitution, in ceramics, of plastic elements for the rich Apennine engraved decoration, in particular raised handles with animal protomes. As far as the economic sphere is concerned, the importance of agriculture is increasing alongside livestock. The connections between the sub-Apennine area and the terramare appear very close, while numerous elements of it penetrate the area of pile-dwelling cultures north of the Po. On the other hand, the very rich series of bronzes typical of the recent Bronze Age of the pile-dwelling area (horizon of Peschiera) and terramaricola is now represented throughout the peninsula. As for funeral rites, the use of cremation now appears relatively frequent, especially in the North.
The nuragic culture of Monte Claro belongs to the recent Bronze Age in Sardinia. In Sicily, during the recent and final Bronze Age and the Iron Age, the culture of Pantalica (➔Cassibile) developed in the north-eastern regions. In the western area of Sicily, in correspondence with the final stages of the Pantalica culture, the culture of Sant’Angelo Muxaro takes place, also with a necropolis of cave tombs sometimes of very large dimensions. In the Aeolian Islands, the recent Bronze Age sees the advent of a new culture, the Ausonio (➔ Aeolian Islands).
During the Late Bronze Age (c. 1200-1000 BC), the most striking phenomenon, which gives a certain cultural homogeneity to the whole Italian territory, is the spread of so-called Proto-Villanovan urn fields, which represent the definitive introduction of a transalpine cultural component coinciding with the waning of the influences of the eastern Mediterranean due to the collapse of the Mycenaean empire. Characteristic of the protovillanovian necropolis are the biconical cinerary urns covered by a recessed rim bowl. The series of bronzes is remarkably rich and refined, illustrated in particular in numerous closets.
The first Iron Age, which generally includes the 9th and 8th centuries, sees the rise and definition, from the relative cultural unit of the Final Bronze Age, of differentiated regional cultures, in correspondence with what will be the subdivisions ethnic-linguistic of historical times. In some areas, particularly in the Italy southern, the Iron Age represents a stage very close to that of urban civilization, but this process is interrupted and brought to completion by the Greek colonization, which marks the passage from proto-history to history.
In the Italy southern, the Apulian culture developed during this age, and in Calabria and Campania the so-called ‘pit tombs’, with impasto and painted ceramic imitation Greek; particularly important in Campania are the findings of Cuma, in Calabria those of Torre Galli.
The Lazio culture, known mainly from the areas of Rome and the Alban Hills, was already defined during the 10th century. In the Marche and Abruzzo the Piceno culture is characterized by interment burials, impasto ceramics and a rich production of bronzes. In Umbria the Iron Age is known from the Terni group, where there are burials with tumulus and cremation. Particularly noteworthy is the rich and ornate series of fibulae.
The Villanovan civilization is distinguished in the two large groups of Emilia and Tuscany-Lazio (northern Lazio), with rather notable local differences. Minor groups have come to light in the Marche (Fermo) and Campania (Pontecagnano, Sala Consilina, Capodifiume). The cremation necropolis of Chiavari testifies to the first Iron Age in Liguria.
The Atestine civilization (➔Este) takes place in the Veneto, extending to Roman times. An equally long duration has the Lombard culture of Golasecca (➔ # 10132;). The Iron Age of Trentino is attested in the cremation necropolis of Vadena.
In Sardinia, the Middle Nuragic, which corresponds to the Late Bronze Age and the Iron Age, saw the maximum flowering of Nuragic buildings. The later phase lasts until the beginning of the Roman domination.