Thursday, 16 February 2012

Chronologies and landscapes

I am currently writing an article for which I have looked for the application of the suggested calibrated carbon date chronology for the central Italian later prehistory. Originally, there was controversy about this scheme based for the Final Bronze Age and Early Iron Age on the dates from south of the Tiber in Latium Vetus (see Nijboer et al., 2002). Due to the analogical use of period names in Etruria and the similarity of the material culture these new periods should also be used north of the Tiber and this seemed to raise opposition. This discussion was ongoing when I did my PhD and now I am returning to the subject.

The difference of chronologies is important since the new datings shorten the Final Bronze Age and extend the length of the Early Iron Age. The former is cut from 300 years to 200 years in maximum and the same amount of time is added to the latter. This would give more time for the emergence and expansion of the large Etruscan towns on the coast and less time for the blooming and restructuration of the ‘Proto-Villanovans’.

I had heard mentioned that the opposition for the new calibrated chronology may have somewhat died out but as I have noticed while assessing the situation, there are still problems with the absolute datings. I noticed that Bietti Sestieri’s and De Santis’ (2007) article – with the new calibrated chronology – was recently the only one on the period in an Italian prehistoric conference. However, it discussed the changes during the Iron Age more than chronology and thus I will still have to read the volume edited by Bartoloni and Delpino (2005) carefully, especially since the disparity between the periodization and absolute dates of some phases of the Early Iron Age in Bietti Sestieri’s and De Santis’ (2007) paper raised my eyebrows. In addition Bartoloni and Nizzo (2005) did not seem to be impressed by the new high chronology.

When reading and using the newish volume on the Final Bronze Age settlements in southern Etruria (Barbaro 2010), I noticed that this volume did not discuss any absolute dates in length. It strictly confines itself to the use of different sub-periods (BF1-2, BF3A1, BF3A2, BF3B). The diagnostic features of the material culture, or more fittingly those of the decorative schemes, were divided between the sub-periods and the settlement sites of the period were classified and periodised accordingly suggesting which sites were settled during which sub-period. This was all fascinating and useful but left the periods of times these sites were truly or tentatively settled unanswered. The question of how lomg and which sites were settled simultaneously is complicated.


Bartoloni, G. & Delpino, F. 2005. 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.

Bartoloni, G. & Nizzo V. 2005 at

Bietti Sestieri, A.-M., & De Santis, A. 2007. ‘Il Lazio antico fra tarda Età del Bronzo e Prima Età del Ferro: gli sviluppi nell’organizzazione politico-territoriale in relazione con il processo di formazione urbana’, Atti della XL riunione scientifica: strategie di insediamento fra Lazio e Campania in età preistorica e protostorica, Roma, Napoli, Pompei, 30 novembre-3 dicembre 2005, dedicati ad Amilcare Bietti, 205-230.

Nijboer, A.J., van der Plicht, J., Bietti Sestieri, A.M. & de Santis, A. 2002 'A high chronology for the Early Iron Age in central Italy’, adapted from Palaeohistoria 41/42, 1999 at the University of Groningen web site

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