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Bronze Age: the Terramare

The great transformation

Late 3rd – 2nd millennia B.C.
During the early Bronze Age (2300 – 1650 B.C.), the territory of Modena was sparsely inhabited, but from 1650 B.C. we begin to see a radical change in the landscape of the central Po Valley, caused by the arrival of new communities that spread out to occupy the territory: the civilization of the Terramare begins.


The most important evidence from the period is a hoard of 96 axes found near Savignano sul Panaro. Stowed neatly inside a hole, and exhibited in the same way in the Museum, they must have been an extraordinary store of wealth at a time when metal was still scarce.

At the beginning Middle Bronze Age, residential areas increase in number and a socio-economic system is established that would prosper for at least four centuries, until the end of the Late Bronze Age (1150 B.C.). This cultural phenomenon, known as the “civilization of the Terramare” represents one of the most relevant aspects of the Italian and European Bronze Age, as was highlighted by the Museum’s large 1997 exhibition entitled “Terramare: The Most Ancient Po Valley Civilization” (link to the exhibition in the archives).


The particular type of settlement is characterized by villages surrounded by imposing earthworks and wide moats, inside of which dwellings were often built on raised platforms supported by pilings. The Terramare society, one of the most advanced in Bronze Age Europe, was comprised of warriors, farmers, herders and craftsmen who were highly skilled in the production of bronze, ceramic, deer antler and bone implements, which are amply represented in the exhibited material. The collections, which are among the most sizeable to be found in Italian museums, concern numerous Terramare in the Modena area, which have been the object of research in both the 19th century and in recent years (link to Protocollo di intesa con Sapienza). The most significant of these is the one in Montale, which the Museum has designated as the Terramare di Montale Archaeological Park and Open-air Museum, complete with life-size reproductions.