Late Neolithic Italy and Southern France

views updated



Sion-Petit Chasseur . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 446

The Neolithic Temples of Malta . . . . . . . . 450

Mediterranean southern France and Italy were closely linked in the Late Neolithic era, sharing similar climates, landscapes, and natural resources as well as modern boundaries. The Alps along the northern limits of Italy and eastern France linked communities together within a common cultural milieu, the Lagozza-Chassey cultures, which were also linked to the Cortaillod culture of Switzerland. The Tyrrhenian coasts of western Italy and southern France were likewise linked, sharing Neolithic origins in the western Mediterranean Cardial culture. Cardial culture represented the primary introduction of domesticated plant and animal species in the western Mediterranean and is characterized by its pottery decorated with shell impressions, known as the Cardial Impressed style. From central Europe, different "Danubian" and Balkan-Neolithic processes had an impact on central France and northern Italy, through distinctive pottery forms, shell ornaments, styles of lithic technology, and settlement from the late seventh millennium through the late sixth millennium across central and southwestern Europe.

The region's topography is remarkably mountainous (it includes the ranges of the Alps, Pyrenees, Apennines, Sila, and the Massif Central as well as the Languedoc and Provence Garrigues); it is a landscape made up of dry limestones and other rocks, with lowlands restricted to the major river valleys and the limited plains of the Tavoliere and Catania. Such topography restricted opportunities for rapid economic or social developments over many areas, until the new technology and social systems of the Bronze Age hastened change.

In general, the Italian Peninsula and Sicily and Sardinia retained distinctive cultural characteristics during much of the Neolithic, often rather isolated from neighboring lands, whereas the north of Italy, with its shared Alpine margins, was more connected with cultural developments in central and western Europe. In the Late Neolithic, the French Chassey, the northern Italian Lagozza, and the Swiss Cortaillod cultures all developed in parallel, using similar pottery and artifact assemblages, even though local conditions dictated different settlement and economic styles. Some raw materials, especially hard Alpine rock for axe manufacture, flint, and the rare island sources of obsidian (especially from Sardinia and Lipari), promoted active economic contacts across considerable distances by land and sea.

The Neolithic traditions of megalithic architecture were adopted during the Neolithic–Copper Age in the western Mediterranean, particularly in France, Corsica, and Sardinia, whereas megalithic constructions in Italy were rare, limited to Bronze Age Apulia in the southeast.


The cultures of the Italian Late Neolithic are most easily defined through their pottery. They fall into distinctive regional styles and separate the peninsula from the Po Valley and Alpine zone through finely made and distinctive forms and decoration. The general trajectory of pottery style development in both Italy and southern France follow similar paths, with local ceramic styles of the later Middle Neolithic period subsumed within very large "cultures" in the Late or Final Neolithic, only to fragment again into regional groups in the Copper Age.

Pottery. In southern Italy, distinctive painted ceramic fine wares represented highly valued commodities. Across Italy, pots were widely traded—along with obsidian, fine lithics, and polished axes—in networks that connected the Po Valley with the south. Such high-prestige goods were often deposited in graves and cult sites far from their places of origin. The production of such pottery had its origins in the earliest Neolithic painted pottery. By the Late Middle Neolithic, distinctive Trichrome pottery styles (c. 5000–4300 b.c.), first the Lipari, Scaloria, and Capri styles and then the Ripoli of central Italy and the Serra d'Alto of the south and Sicily, dominated the fine wares in circulation. Comprising jars, cups with elaborately modeled handles, and miniature flasks, the forms typically had rounded, flared rims and were decorated with curvilinear, "flame," and geometric painted patterns.

The later phase of the southern Italian Late Neolithic was characterized by a uniform pottery culture—the so-called Diana-Bellavista type. This was a red-slipped and burnished pottery that evolved between c. 4300–3700 b.c., comprising forms that ranged from globular jars to highly carinated bowl shapes but always with distinctive rolled, trumpet-shaped lug handles. As in the Middle Neolithic, much of this material was deposited in graves and cult sites and was extensively traded alongside obsidian, especially obsidian from Lipari. Pottery of this type is especially known from the cemeteries of Bellavista near Taranto and Contrada di Diana on Lipari. Local ceramic styles (such as brown-slipped wares) were maintained at sites such as La Romita di Asciano near Pisa and Norcia in the Umbria areas of Tuscany, Umbria, and Marche alongside imported Diana-Bellavista and Lagozza elements (trumpet lugs and scratched geometric patterns). The end of the Neolithic in the peninsula is marked by the darker ceramic styles of the Copper Age. Several phases and cultures create a complex picture for this era, but essentially, smooth, burnished, rounded forms, one- and two-handled cups, jars, flasks, bowls, and large storage vessels typify the central Italian Rinadone and Conelle-Ortucchio and the southern Italian Gaudo pottery styles.

In northern Italy, the cultural sequence of the mid–Late Neolithic saw a variety of earlier ceramic styles spread across the Po Valley and take hold in the surrounding mountain region. The Middle Neolithic in the north had been dominated by variations of the Square-Mouthed pottery culture. For example, in the eastern plain, the Quinzano (represented at La Vela in Trento) was a late Square-Mouthed pottery with incised curvilinear (meandrospiralico) decoration. The pottery typically had a flared four-sided shape rising from rounded bases and foot rings, and it took the form of jars and cups, often decorated with bands of incised patterns. Assemblages included pintaderas, or clay stamps, with spiral patterns, possibly used for body painting or fabric decoration. The central part of the western Po Valley and the Alps maintained local forms, such as the Isolino of Lombardy with its coarser incised and cordoned pottery, normally modeled as open bowls with footed bases and handled jars. By the Late Neolithic, as in southern Italy, local styles were subsumed within a broad cultural identity—Lagozza. The dark, burnished pottery of this group ranged from wide open (and often sharply carinated) and wide, flat bowls to narrow-necked, wide-bellied jars, characterized by vertical "panpipe" lugs and small button lugs around the rims and vessel bodies. Incised geometric decorations, carefully and precisely scratched, were applied around the inner rims of bowls and in bands around the bodies of some pots. The Lagozza style was replaced by the Copper Age Remedello pottery, which contained Beaker elements together with rounded and carinated forms and angled strap handles reminiscent of those in peninsular Italy.

The sequence of pottery styles in Liguria links Italy and France. Sites such as the Arene Candide cave in Liguria include classic Lagozza and Chassey material. The Cardial Impressed pottery of the Early Neolithic of southern France was replaced in the Middle and Late Neolithic by pottery from the almost ubiquitous Chassey culture. The Chasséen du Midi pottery types of the south are finely made bowls, jars, and plates, often with carinated or baggy round-based profiles. The repertoire of incised geometric motifs around the body of the vessel together with lugs, buttons, and suspension handles and the characteristic vertical panpipes parallel the Lagozza style. Extravagant patterns were applied to vase supports in central France and beyond, and sometimes pots were encrusted with white or red paste to enhance the patterns. Elements of the French Chassey continued in local styles in the succeeding Final Neolithic–Copper Age. The Véraza and Ferriéres styles occur in the western areas of southern France (in the Pyrenees and on the Aude), employing hachured triangle patterns on the pottery. Farther east, in Provence and Languedoc, the Treilles group on the (Grande) Causses and the Gourgasien–Saint Ponien groups in Languedoc have plain and decorated pottery, often with cordons and geometric incised bands together with asymmetrical and crenellated arrowheads and distinctive winged beads. The Fontbouisse culture of the Late Neolithic extends into the Copper Age and is characterized by jars and carinated vessels that have channeled, incised, and impressed patterns arranged in distinctive checkerboard and garland designs. Broadly speaking, the mainland pottery styles link loosely with those of the Tyrrhenian Islands, where the Corsican Terrinien and Sardinian Bonu Ighinu–Ozieri cultures developed in parallel.

Stone. The lithic assemblages of Late Neolithic peninsular Italy are characterized by the production of large, long blades that replaced lingering microlithic traditions. Tools were retouched, forming triangular, leaf-shaped, barbed, and transverse arrowheads. Lithic technology in northern Italy remained more deeply embedded in its Mesolithic origins, with geometric tranchet-blade technologies still present in the Lagozza culture. Retouching became highly developed in the Final Neolithic and Early Copper Age; large and finely flaked daggers and knives are especially characteristic of the Remedello and Rinadone cultures.

Obsidian use reached its maximum level of use in the Late Neolithic, with the massive exploitation of the Lipari source. Work by A. J. Ammerman at Piano di Curinga in Calabria, close to Lipari, showed how coastal communities there specialized in the reduction and working of raw obsidian, presumably for onward trade. Sardinian obsidian from the Monte Arci sources was also traded—north to Corsica and southern France from the sixth millennium b.c.—and has been found throughout the Midi and southern Languedoc. Areas such as the Adriatic coast, distant from obsidian sources, generally had little material in their assemblages and instead made use of local flint and chert. Fine flint was mined from early in the Neolithic on the Gargano Promontory in northern Apulia at sites such as Defensola, and it was traded over considerable distances. Fine honey flint in the Lessini Mountains of Veneto was similarly prized and is found across northern Italy. The Copper Age Ice Man had Lessini flint in his kit. In France, local flint supplied regional needs, although mined sources like Le Grande Pressigny in west-central France clearly dominated trade across the region for some artifacts.

Polished volcanic and metamorphic stone (such as nephrite, amphibolite, and jadeite) was highly prized for the production of axes, adzes, and polished stone rings, amulets, and beads. The sources of these rare and widely spaced rocks were in the Maritime Alps of France and Italy and the Sila of Calabria. Finished objects were traded across the western Mediterranean, even as far as Malta, Britain, and northern France; for example stone rings of chlorite were prized in northern Italy (and Sardinia). Other functional stone sources (suitable for grindstones, querns, hammers, and ornaments) were located in many rocky areas, such as the Alps and the Massif Central, and supplied axes across France and Italy.

Other Materials. The emergence of metal use in the Copper Age was manifested in the appearance of copper flat axes, halberds, daggers, pins, rings, and knives in the Lagozza, Remedello, and Fontbouisse cultures together with rare ornaments of gold, silver, or both (especially in the Remedello and Gaudo cultures). The wetlands of northern Italy have preserved organic materials and artifacts from the Late Neolithic and Copper Age, including bone fishhooks and wooden bowls, combs, tools, hafts for axes, arrows, and bow fragments. These offer a parallel to the extraordinary preservation of the Swiss and French Alpine lake dwellings and indicate the technologically rich world of the Late Neolithic–Copper Age communities in the region.

Dating. The Late Neolithic in Italy and southern France spans the mid-fifth millennium to the mid-third millennium b.c., with local sequences of differing lengths and antiquity. The presence of local metal ores provided technological triggers in areas such as Tuscany and the Alps, with the emergence of early metalwork erupting by the end of the fourth millennium b.c. Organic remains from wetland sites—Lagozza and Remedello, for example—offer potential for detailed dendrochronology and thus for increased understanding of local sequences. However, the period is still one where cultures changed slowly and, in many cases, persisted for more than half a millennia.

house forms and settlement patterns

Early Neolithic settlement sites included rock shelters and caves, as at Arene Candide in Liguria, Grotta del Santuario Della Madonna at Praia a Mare in Calabria, and Grotta dell'Uzzo in Sicily, as well as open settlements along coasts, plains, and river valleys. Detailed settlement evidence in southern Italy for the Late Neolithic is surprisingly sparse in comparison to the great ditched earlier sites, with few extensively excavated examples. Site locations were invariably closely linked to good agricultural soils in lowland plains, basins, and valleys, and surveys have indicated expansion during the Late Neolithic into more marginal areas, including low hillsides and terraces, generally below 400 meters. A survey of the Acconia area in Calabria showed how the density and size of settlements increased in the Late Neolithic, often extending more than 2 kilometers. Surveys suggest that sites covered several hectares but that enclosure ditches or walls were not used to define the limits. Huts were substantial, made of wattle, daub, and timber; hearths, pits, cobbled floors, and paving are known. In rocky upland places, stone walling was used in construction. Similar evidence for Late Neolithic expansion emerged from surveys of the Ofanto Valley and the Biferno Valley in Southeast Italy, confirming the general pattern of population and settlement increase from the fifth to the fourth millennia b.c.

In central Italy the semiditched site of Ripoli in the Abruzzo extended some 300 by 120 meters across and contained about fifty structures arranged in small groups of 3 to 6 houses and middens closely associated with burials. Other Ripoli culture sites indicate similar evidence, and the ditch-enclosed Pianaccio di Tortoreto contained some eighty structures. Houses at Santa Maria in Selva ranged from 5 to 10 meters long and were divided internally with hearths. Settlements consisting of sunken floors or large pits of 1.5 to 5 meters in diameter from Catignano and Pianaccio are the substructures of houses that otherwise consisted of stone spreads, cobbles, wattle and daub, and timber. Some sites had specialized areas for industrial activity, such as the trampled floors remaining from obsidian working at Torre Spaccata in Lazio. Toward the end of the Neolithic, survey suggests that settlement numbers declined, as semifortified, larger, and more centralized locations were selected.

The evidence from northern Italy is very different, since organic survival in the Po Plain has enabled more complete preservation. From early in the Neolithic, timber structures, pits, and gullies built close to rivers and lakes demonstrate effective wetland settlement and exploitation. Some sites were strategically placed, such as the prominent hill of Rocca di Rivoli in Veneto. This site had scant traces of ditches, pits, hearths, and dumps of burned daub. La Vela in Trento was arranged at the head of a valley, with terraces, ditches, alignment of postholes, and rectangular cobbled surfaces suggesting dwelling areas. Defensive sites were selected to control hillsides and access points across the plain and mountain areas. The Late Neolithic Lagozza culture exploited caves in some areas, but most settlement preferred lowland or terrace locations. Wood platforms as at Remedello and Fiavè were constructed at the edges of lakes; settlements formed at these sites are similar to those known from the Swiss, French, and German Alpine lakes and anticipate the later terremare Bronze Age lake settlements.

In southern France as in Italy, there was an increase in the number of settlements in the Late Neolithic. Several hundred sites—both caves and open settlements—in Provence alone have produced Chassey material. Although few have been fully excavated, Saint Michel-du-Touch near Tou-louse provides remarkably complete evidence, with its multiple ditches, palisade trenches for tree trunks, and some three hundred cobbled zones indicating houses, hearths, and pits. The site is located on a 30-meter-high promontory at the confluence of the Garonne and Touch Rivers. Nearby Villeneuve-Tolosane forms a 30-hectare concentration of settlement, comprising more than 200 structures arranged as hamlets, each 50 to 100 meters apart. Chassey sites varied considerably in size across the region, though most are smaller. Caves and rock shelters were maintained in use through the Neolithic, probably as seasonal shelters for pastoralists.

In the final Neolithic to transitional Copper Age period, an increased number of settlements with stone-built longhouses were constructed, and some of these are well preserved in Languedoc and Provence, on the limestone plateaus or in the Garrigues. The finest sites belong to the Fontbouisse culture of Languedoc (in Hèrault, Gard, Ardèche) and consist of clusters of up to 50 closely packed drystone-walled longhouses, each up to 15 meters long and varying considerably in size. Some sites included an extra-large communal house. Typical Languedoc house plans at La Conquette and Gravas showed each house was a separate unit, containing several different activity areas. Hearths against the rear wall faced the main entrance and artifacts were scattered in discrete groups, including storage vessels lined along the end walls. Some Fontbuisse sites in Languedoc (Boussarges and Lebois) had enclosure walls incorporating several circular "tower" constructions, suggesting the sites were highly fortified, although some scholars believe the enclosures were stock enclosures. Open settlements on the coastal plains and in the Rhône Valley comprise similar elements, although without the drystone constructions. In Provence, the Couronne culture comprised settlements on the limestone landscape of stone and timber houses associated with small plots of arable land.

subsistence data

The Late Neolithic saw the establishment of more intensive and productive cereal and pulse production across large areas of the lowlands of Italy and southern France. New introductions included several varieties of wheat (including bread wheat) and barley together with peas, broad beans, lentils, flax, and a wide variety of collected fruits and nuts. Stock animals were generally dominated by caprines in the south, with smaller numbers of cattle and pigs, and pigs seem to have declined in Italy as forest browse was removed. In central Italy the balance of stock gradually changed from a mainly caprine-based economy to one dominated by cattle and pigs, and some sites were clearly highly specialized for one type of animal. In the mountains of Liguria, analysis of the fauna from Arene Candide suggests that caprines and probably cattle were milked early in the Neolithic, confounding the popular belief that secondary products were a later development. The study also showed that pigs were only domesticated in the Late Neolithic, since wild boars had supplied pork throughout most of the Neolithic. Hunted animals, especially red deer, were significant in some cult deposits, such as the Apulian caves of Pacelli, Cala Colombo, and Ipogei Manfredi and the Apennine caves of Abruzzo and Tuscany, although probably hunted food never amounted to more than a small part of the food supply at these sites. Significantly, many areas became less intensive in the Late Neolithic, as settlement expanded into less-productive landscapes. In particular, the Lagozza economy in the Po Valley seems to have become extensive, showing a greater reliance on fishing and hunting alongside herding, cereal farming, and the development of secondary products and pig production in the wooded areas. As more marginal land was exploited for grazing, seasonal movement between the mountains and the coastal plains prompted the development of long-lived transhumance. In southern France, similar patterns of mixed farming were practiced, with caprines the dominant stock over most of the Garrigues and uplands and cattle and pigs only significant in lowland, valley, and coastal areas. The importance of hunted and gathered food also declined in the Late Neolithic in France, although river valleys, coastal zones (such as the Rhône Delta), and the dry uplands may have had more specialized economies focused on wild foods, fish, and hunted animals. Transhumance was likely to have been practiced in the Late Neolithic–Copper Age, with the seasonal movement of stock from upland to lowland, and this is attested by the large numbers of cave sites used as temporary shelters containing artifacts and animals remains.

trade, exchange, and interregional contact

The emergence of the western Mediterranean obsidian exchange network demonstrates the scale and complexity of Late Neolithic interaction. The scientific recognition of the different island sources (Lipari, Pantelleria, Palmarola, and Sardinia), through neutron activation and chemical analysis, has provided new insights into the changing components of Neolithic assemblages.

The main obsidian sources during the Neolithic were Sardinia and Lipari; obsidian from these two islands circulated widely in central and northern Italy and southern France alongside the inferior Palmarola material in the Middle Neolithic. By the Late Neolithic, the pattern of distribution was dominated by Lipari obsidian, so at Arene Candide, the balance changed from Middle Neolithic levels, in which equal quantities of obsidian originated in Lipari, Sardinia, and Palmarola, to Late Neolithic levels, where only some 13 percent of the assemblage came from Sardinia and 87 percent came from Lipari. The same pattern seems to be borne out across northern Italy, and caches of cores have been located at what may be redistribution centers in the Apennines at sites such as Pescale. In France, the situation is less well understood, but Sardinian obsidian certainly competed effectively with local flint sources across much of the Rhône Delta, the coast of Languedoc, and southern Provence.

The axe and hard-stone trade also developed into an extensive network, linking the dispersed sources of raw material to consumers across the region. Greenstone and other attractive fine-grained igneous and metamorphic rock was exploited in the Maritime Alps, Jura (France), and Calabria and eastern Sicily; some quarry areas have been broadly identified from microscopic analysis. Local sites seem to have acted as collecting centers for onward exchange. Utilitarian axes, hammers, and grindstones were sourced from the basalt areas of the Massif Central, Basilicata, Lazio, Campania, and eastern Sicily and supplied relatively local exchange networks. Flint, although more generally available across the predominantly limestone landscapes of southern France and Italy, still circulated widely. Major flint sources were located in the Gargano of Apulia, the Ibeli Hills of southeastern Sicily, the Lessini Mountains of northeastern Italy, and across France, most famously the Grande Pressigny from the Loire, which was especially exploited in the first half of the third millennium b.c. Flints and cherts are usually identified through color and texture, and certain prized materials, such as banded, speckled, or highly colored flint and chert, had extensive distributions.

Other traded materials included fine pottery, such as the southern Italian painted pottery that occurs in the Po Valley and at Arene Candide, and the Ripoli, Serra d'Alto, and monochrome Diana styles, all circulated alongside obsidian and fine stone. Marine shells were also exchanged, including Spondylus and large conch shells, to regions as distant as the Abruzzi uplands. Doubtless, many organic materials moved alongside the durable objects, but of these, of course, there is no trace.

burial practices

The Middle and Late Neolithic in Italy mark the transition from collective and informal burial to individual burials in formal cemeteries. In peninsular Italy, burial had been in settlement ditches and caves, often without grave goods or formal arrangement of the corpse. Bones were sometimes venerated and displayed, as at the Grotta Funeraria at Matera. In the Middle Neolithic, at the cave complex of Grotta Scaloria, multiple burials (perhaps as many as thirty to forty), loosely associated with pottery and grave goods, were part of a cult site. Nearby, however, more formal arrangements found at the site of Azzolini at Molfetta contained some fifty-six graves of individuals and their grave goods. Many of the ditched settlements included later formal burial areas, as at Serra d'Alto, where discrete cist, pit, or rock-cut trench structures contained a burial with simple pottery, lithics, and ornaments. Scoglio del Tonno at Taranto included a cemetery within a ditched enclosure of two cists and two ditch graves containing a total of eight individuals with a large number of pots and lithics. At Ripoli in Abruzzo the cemetery arrangements may reflect the social organization of the community; the trench graves, each containing between two and fourteen crouched corpses, were furnished with pottery, bone, and lithic tools. One female burial included a dog. The Late Neolithic cemetery of Bellavista near Taranto was constructed of twenty closely packed burial pits. Similar small cemeteries of pits and cists have been identified across southern Italy and Sicily.

Other burials were placed in caves used for cult activity, and frequently these had child burials, animal offerings, and an array of symbolic artifacts and ocher. Some caves—such as Grotta Latronico in Basilicata and Grotta Lattaia in Tuscany—had hot springs, volcanic steam fumaroles, stalagmites, and other curiosities that enhanced the liminal character of the burial places. In the Copper Age, more formal cemeteries and a greater emphasis on the dead developed, including large and often richly furnished cemeteries, such as Laterza in Apulia, Gaudo in Campania, and the many Rinadone cemeteries of Tuscany-Lazio. These often prominently located sites involved rock-cut tombs or trench, fossa, and ditch graves that employed both collective and individual burial rites. The grave goods of these cemeteries comprised specialized funerary pottery (including flasks and cups for drinking), fine flint, ornaments, and rare metal objects. Similar formal cemetery areas close to settlements also typified funerary practices in northern Italy. At La Vela in Trento, cists formed the burial structures for carefully northwest-southeast-oriented corpses. Late Neolithic Lagozza graves were also cists and arranged in groups of up to twenty-five inhumations, as at Villeneuve and Sarre in the Aosta Valley, usually with grave goods consisting of a few pots, shells, flints, and (rarely) polished stone. These graves had much in common with the Chassey across the Alps in France. The Early Copper Age cemeteries of the Remedello involved large cemeteries of collective graves, often with more than one hundred corpses and with rich grave goods. These included copper ornaments, halberds, flint axes, daggers, and arrowheads but rarely pottery. In the Ligurian Mountains, cave burials, such as at Tana Bertrand, continued the old traditions of collective burial.

The burial structures of southern France are markedly different from those of Italy, particularly because the construction of megalithic burial monuments—dolmens—reached its peak in the Late Neolithic and Copper Age. Several hundred megalithic structures survive in varying styles, locations, forms, and sizes across the region. Cave burials also persisted, often with a hundred corpses or more placed on the floors of caves, occasionally with cremations among them. The cave of Pas de Julié in Languedoc contained more than three hundred individuals. Such burial caves were often restricted in size and ease of access—which added to their mystery and exclusiveness—and in many cases they appear to have been used for a short time only.

The dolmen burials, conversely, contain grave goods representing long and successive use, even though the numbers of burials were usually only between ten and sixty individuals. Some dolmens represent dramatic events and contain numerous bodies, stacked one upon the other, containing embedded arrowheads, presumably the result of skirmishes, as at Roaix in Provence. Typical grave goods included flint tools, arrowheads, daggers, and sickles, with rare copper objects in the later contexts. Pottery was rarely deposited in graves in Provence. The Chassey cemetery at Les Moulins à Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux in the Rhône Valley contained some forty trench and pit graves dating from 4400–3800 b.c. with deposits of collective burials, stones, bones, wood, and isolated human body parts. At Le Gournier near Montélimar, some twenty-eight circular pit graves contained single and multiple burials, where the skulls sometime were placed on large stones, and burials were accompanied by pottery, flint, and (rarely) animal remains. Farther west in the Aude and Pyrenees areas, similar traditions of cave burial continued, although cemeteries of cists and cairns and pit burials developed. These include the Chasséen burials at Saint-Michel du Touch and Villeneuve-Tolosane, where corpses were buried with pots, ornaments, tools, and (often) animal body parts, such as a teenage burial with hedgehog jaws and an old woman with boar's tusk pendants. Some burials suggest emergent hierarchy, with numerous grave goods and impressive, large overlying constructions.

The dolmen varied in form and shape from round cists enclosed in stones to long passages covered by slabs. Rock-cut tombs, such as those near Arles, were also in use in what was a period of widely varied funerary traditions.

art and ritual

The Late Neolithic represents a period of developing art styles: of pottery that was elaborately made and decorated, of painted and incised motifs that occurred on pottery and pintaderas, and of rare cave and rock art. The Grotta di Porto Badisco in southern Apulia is a decorated Neolithic cult cave that contains two long corridors and one short corridor of restricted galleries that were painted in ocher and guano. The designs compare closely with those on Serra d'Alto- and Ripoli-style painted pottery, having zigzags, cross-hatching, and mazelike patterns. Some figurative images also suggest hunting scenes, and the complex is dated across the mid–Late Neolithic. Idols and figurines were made throughout the Neolithic in Italy, with examples from sites such as Passo di Corvo in the Middle Neolithic and Arnesano (Taranto) and Grotta Pacelli (Bari) in the Late Neolithic. Rock art in the Alpine areas seems to have commenced in the Neolithic, although it was principally a Bronze Age and Iron Age phenomenon. Images from Val Camonica, Mont Bego, and other areas of the Maritime Alps represent animal and human scenes, constructions, patterns, suns, and so on, suggesting aspects of prehistoric cosmology.

See alsoSion-Petit Chasseur (vol. 1, part 4).


Guidi, Alessandro, and Marcello Piperno, eds. Italia Preistorica. Rome: Laterza, 1992.

Guilaine, Jean. De la vague à la tombe: La conquête de la Méditerranée, 8000–2000 avant J.-C. Paris: Seuil, 2003.

Guilaine, Jean, and Jean-Louis Roudil. Les civilisations néolithiques en Languedoc. Vol. 2, La préhistoire française. Paris: Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), 1976.

Malone, Caroline. "A Review of the Neolithic of the Central Mediterranean." Journal of World Prehistory. Forthcoming.

Phillips, Patricia. Early Farmers of West Mediterranean Europe. London: Hutchinson, 1975.

Radmilli, Antonio Mario, ed. Guida della Preistoria Italiana. Florence, Italy: Sansoni, 1975.

Scarre, Christopher, ed. Ancient France: Neolithic Societies and Their Landscapes, 6000–2000b.c. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1983.

Whitehouse, Ruth. Underground Religion: Cult and Culture in Prehistoric Italy. London: Accordia Research Centre, 1992.

Caroline Malone