Magic and Ritual in Iron Age Veneto, Italy

Elisa Perego

UCL Institute of Archaeology

In this article I discuss the possibility that the Iron Age Veneti of Northern Italy believed in magic. By drawing on ethno-historical comparisons and contextual analysis, I suggest that items such as pierced shells, coral, amber, glass beads and bronze pendants were possibly employed as amulets by children, women and, far more rarely, by men. I also examine the placing of selected non-edible animal remains such as horns, teeth, and astragali (knucklebones) in ritual contexts, suggesting than their meaning, whether magical, religious or more mundane, can be understood only through a careful evaluation of the circumstances of deposition. I finally point out that the study of magic in prehistory has been often passed over and devalued, probably for a lack of written sources and proper evidence. On the contrary, I argue that a more holistic approach to ritual and to the several layers of meaning embedded in magical objects can offer valuable insights into wider issues such as the management of power and the construction of past individuals' social and personal identities.

Keywords
amulets, beads, Iron Age Veneto, magic, selected non-edible animal remains, shells

Introduction: Theoretical and Cultural Background

Magic can be defined as the ‘harnessing of occult power for instrumental purposes’ (Morris 2006: 234); such as individual protection, the destruction of an enemy or the acquisition of prosperity. The practice of magic is often linked to the use of amulets. Amulets are small objects which are believed to be endowed with esoteric powers and are carried on the body as a means of defence against malevolent supernatural forces such as the evil eye, an almost universal superstition according to which a glance can cause harm to people and their properties (Lykiardopolous 1981: 222). The first goal of this article is to discuss the possibility that the Veneti, a population which flourished in northern Italy in the first millennium BC, believed in magic. My paper is partially intended as a critical assessment of A. Chierici’s 1999 article Amuleti nei Corredi Funebri Paleoveneti e dell’Italia Antica, which constitutes the main contribution on Venetic magic so far. A second aim is to address the way that mainstream archaeology has generally marginalised the role of magic in prehistoric societies. The importance of magic in the social foundation of past societies has rarely been recognised and magic itself, an elusive and rarely detectable practice, has been often trivialized and labelled as the product of primitive and underdeveloped cultures. The reasons for such an attitude are numerous, including the influence of early anthropologists such as Frazer and Mauss who viewed ‘magic’ as a naïve, exotic and marginal superstition vis-à-vis ‘religion,’ the latter seen as a mystical, comprehensive and well-structured system and therefore considered intrinsically ‘superior’ (Gilchrist 2008: 120). Despite these premises, historical and archaeo-historical scholarship on magic has thrived in the last twenty years, with a particular focus on the Graeco-Roman world and the Middle Ages (e.g. Arsivatham et al. 2001; Gilchrist 2008; Meyer and Mirecki 1995; Mirecki and Meyer 2002; Ogden 2001; Zeiten 2007). On the contrary, archaeologists still regard the study of magic and ritual in prehistory as highly problematic (e.g. Verhoeven 2002). As I show later, however, ethnographic examples demonstrate the connection between the practice of magic and attempts to deal with economical change, gain social recognition, and justify inequalities on an ideological level. Magic is often integrated into official religion and amulets, far from being ‘minor’ artefacts, must be considered the ‘materialisation’ of emotional experiences, religious practices and forms of gender, age and class negotiation which deeply affect the functioning of society as a whole.

Map of the Veneto region

Figure 1. Map of the Veneto region.

Archaeological studies on amulets and other magical devices are neither numerous nor exhaustive. Some works are limited to a single category of objects (e.g. Dangworth 1998; Kiernan 2004). More comprehensive analyses have focussed on historical periods with a rich record of written sources such as Ancient Egypt (e.g. Andrews 1994; Germond 2005) and the Middle Ages (e.g. Gilchrist 2008; Meaney 1981; Skemer 2006). The identification of amulets in prehistory is instead based on ethno-historical comparisons often unrelated to the area under study, while analysis of the local context is minimally addressed. Common studies on the topic consist of mere lists of items which may have had a magical value (e.g. Acquaro 1977; Andrews 1994; De Salvia 1993; Lise 1988). Theoretical concepts are generally lacking. The authors may recognize recurrent patterns in the use of amulets (e.g. due to gender or age), but the reasons for these choices are treated without depth. This is particularly true of Italian scholarship (Acquaro 1989; Chierici 1989; 1999; De Marinis 1996; 1997; De Salvia 1985; Endrizzi and Marzatico 1997; Ferrari 1996). One of the most complete archaeological studies on magic is Pauli’s 1975 book on Iron Age Central Europe (Pauli 1975). By drawing on ethno-historical comparisons, he explains the widespread deposition of amulets in the tombs of people who died prematurely (especially children and young women) or due to anomalous and dramatic circumstances (e.g. suicide) as a consequence of a widespread belief in the ‘ill-luck’ which accompanies premature and violent death, often believed to generate ghosts and malevolent souls. The amulets buried in such tombs, therefore, may have been intended to protect the living from the dead, and not the dead from danger as usually thought. Pauli also notes that the use of amulets seems to have increased in historical periods of social instability, possibly because people may have resorted to magic in the absence of anything better.

Previous research on Venetic magic has been scanty. The first and main contribution to the topic is the already mentioned paper by Chierici (1999). Chierici’s article is threefold. The first and more effective part is a detailed analysis of Graeco-Roman and Medieval historical sources which describe the supposed magical properties of a vast range of items including shells, coral, amber and selected animal remains. This section is also enriched by numerous references to actual archaeological findings of possible amulets in ancient Italy. The second part, presented as an addendum, is a list of some dozens of Veneto graves which may have contained amulets. This section is followed by a second addendum with a long catalogue of tombs with supposed amulets spread across Italy. In these two postscripts, Chierici takes into consideration four categories of items (shells, coral, horns and animal teeth) which, on the basis of his previous historical survey, he believes to have probably been regarded as magical by the inhabitants of Veneto and ancient Italy. This part of the article, however, is problematic. First, other important possible amulets such as amber, glass beads and bullae (bubble-shaped bronze amulets or ornaments) are not included directly in the list, although they are sometimes mentioned when found in tombs already listed in the catalogue. Second, a review of anthropological and archaeological studies on magic is lacking, especially in the case of non-Italian works. The identification of magic in Iron Age Veneto and 1st millennium BC Italy is mainly based on ethno-historical and Latin sources. Although this material undoubtedly constitutes an important starting point to approach the study of magic in antiquity (see below), no real effort is done to critically evaluate it in relation to the areas under study. An in-depth analysis of the context of burial is also missing. Although data on the chronology and location of tombs is generally made available, more detailed information on the grave assemblage, tomb structure, number of depositions in each single grave and the status, age and gender of the deceased is meagre. A final discussion of the material presented and its wider relation to the Venetic social setting is also absent.

Another issue to be kept in mind is the extraordinary advancement of Venetic archaeology in the last ten years, with the publication of a large number of new grave assemblages and the routine adoption of osteological analysis to determine the age and biological sex of the deceased. Consequently, important new data are now available vis-à-vis the 1990s, when Chierici wrote his paper. My first aim, therefore, is to expand Chierici's work by taking into consideration a much wider dataset than he did. A second aim is to develop a more solid methodology for the identification of possible amulets in Iron Age Veneto. Both these issues are discussed in the next section, which is followed by a brief presentation of the context under study, in order to introduce the reader to the main aspects of Venetic archaeology. A further section of the article is concerned with discussing whether the Veneti believed in magic. This part is twofold. First, I consider whether some ornaments were used as amulets in Iron Age Veneto. Second, I examine the meaning of selected non-edible animal remains interred in ritual contexts. Particular emphasis is given to the placing of shells, teeth and astragali in the grave’s mound and/or filling, or on the covering slab of cremation graves, a practice which suggests that such items may have been employed as magical devices to protect the living and the dead. In the final part of this paper I bring to the fore my suggestion that, by drawing on ethno-historical comparisons, the study of Venetic magic can offer valuable insights into wider issues such as the management of power and the construction of past individuals’ social identities.

Data and Methodology

The present work is based on the analysis of a database of around 1,000 graves dating between c.900 and 50 BC (a full dataset and bibliography in my PhD thesis, in preparation; a preliminary analysis of magic in Iron Age Veneto in my MA dissertation: Perego 2007). This material has been excavated over a period of around 135 years (1876 - present) in several Venetic localities, such as Este, Montagnana and Padua in central Veneto, Altino near Venice, Lovara and Gazzo Veronese in the Verona countryside, and Montebelluna in the Piave Valley. Due to the brevity of this paper, my main focus is on well-studied grave assemblages from the Benvenuti, Ricovero, Muletti Prosdocimi, Alfonsi and Via Versori cemeteries at Este (Bondini 2005; Bianchin Citton et. al. 1998; Chieco Bianchi and Calzavara Capuis 1985; 2006) and the Via Tiepolo cemetery at Padua (Ruta Serafini 1990). This restricted dataset includes a total of c. 345 graves, mainly cremations (c. 320). A table which summarises findings from Este Benvenuti is at the end of the present article.

The identification of amulets in societies lacking written sources is indubitably hard. The initial approach might revert to the evaluation of ethno-historical comparisons as related as possible with the area under study in order to produce hypotheses subject to testing. Latin authors provide information on the employment of amulets and spells in ancient Italy to cast away evil, recover health, communicate with the dead and cause harm to enemies. Inscriptions found on curse tablets and pendants demonstrate that such practices were actually employed by a large stratum of the population. The amulets described by Latin writers – shells, coral, amber, glass beads, flints, horns and animal teeth - have been found in graves all around the Peninsula and the Mediterranean area, both in pre-Roman and Roman times, perhaps testifying to a widespread faith in similar practices (Chierici 1989; 1999). Moreover, the very same amulets described by the Romans have been used for magical purposes until modern times, both in Italy and other European/Mediterranean countries, demonstrating the extraordinary persistence of these beliefs over time (Lykiardopolous 1981; Paine 2004). It is also possible that the magical value of shells, pierced stones, selected animal remains and amber was rooted in pre-Iron Age times, as suggested by their extensive use in early prehistory (e.g. Endrizzi and Marzatico 1997). Roman accounts, therefore, might be evidence of practices older than the age in which these texts were written, and can be cautiously employed to cast some light on the adoption of magic in late prehistoric Italy. Indeed, the Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder (AD 23 – 79) specifies that many of the magical items he discusses in his Naturalis Historia are well-known traditional Italic remedies (NH XXVIII, 123; Chierici 1999: 167). In the case of Veneto, the recourse to Latin written sources might be partially justified by the existence of important similarities in the ritual practice of Veneti and Romans, as increasingly demonstrated by recent excavations. These similarities have been tentatively ascribed to a common Italic or even Indo-European background and we cannot exclude the possibility that similar beliefs in the occult were also shared by the two peoples. Furthermore, it is possible that the Etruscans, settled in central Italy and the Po plain between Veneto and Latium, had a role in spreading some beliefs and ritual practices which have been found in the three regions. A case in point might be that of bullae, which the Romans believed to have inherited from Etruria, and which were also common in Veneto (see below).

Whilst Roman sources might provide a preliminary framework for the identification of amulets in Iron Age Veneto, their contribution should not be overestimated, especially without a careful consideration of the context under study. I therefore propose a list of criteria – drawn from a wide range of ethno-historical studies on the topic - which can be adopted to identify amulets on the basis of their intrinsic characteristics and context of deposition. Obviously, no single criterion alone can demonstrate that a specific item was considered an amulet in Iron Age Veneto. However, I believe that these criteria provide a more grounded framework for identifying magic in antiquity vis-à-vis several previous works on the topic, in which the identification of amulets has often been based on highly problematic criteria such as the object’s supposed lack of any immediate practical function, ‘beauty,’ ‘strangeness,’ or rarity (Zeiten 1997: 4).

To identify a small object as a magical device we can consider its:

When focusing on burials, a fundamental issue is to distinguish amulets possessed by a person before death and successively interred as a part of his/her own personal grave assemblage from magical devices intentionally selected for the funeral by the mourners and believed to protect the burial and/or the living from evil supernatural forces, including the return of the ‘walking dead.’ Although it is hard to draw a precise distinction between the two categories, we can consider an object’s


Burial image

Figure 2. Colombara tomb 61 from Gazzo Veronese. Young woman buried face-down with a horse leg and a few animal bones (Salzani 2008).

The Context: Iron Age Veneto

The area under study is located in north-eastern Italy and, during the first millennium BC, is supposed to have been inhabited by a population of Indo-European descent, the Veneti of the Graeco-Roman tradition (Capuis 2009). An Indo-European language slightly similar to Latin is attested on several hundreds of brief inscriptions spread across the region and dating between c.550 BC and AD 50. Unfortunately, no reference to magic is found in these texts, whose meaning is sometimes still obscure. Evidence of social complexity, hierarchy and proto-urban development is found in Veneto as early as the 8th century BC. The main settlements, including Padua and Este, may have developed a full urban layout in the 6th century BC. Many of the most important Venetic sanctuaries flourished in this period as well, although some evidence of formal cult activity is already attested at the end of the 8th century (Ruta Serafini 2002). The Veneti were still able to maintain their independence both when the Celts invaded the Po plain in the 4th century BC and when the Romans began their expansion in northern Italy at the end of the 3rd. Roman politics in Veneto became more aggressive in the 2nd century BC and the region was definitively annexed to the Roman State in the 1st century BC. Cremation was the most common funerary ritual during the Iron Age. (Bondini 2005; Chieco Bianchi and Calzavara Capuis 1985; 2006; Ruta Serafini 1990). Inhumation was also practised, possibly for low-ranking people only. The structure of cremation graves could vary from stone and wooden rectangular containers (cassette) to pit graves and depositions within large ceramic pots (dolia) (fig. 3). Cremated human bones were usually placed in an urn. Grave goods and offerings such as ornaments, tools, vessels, food and weapons were placed in the tomb container with the urn. Multiple graves were common. This may imply the deposition of more than one urn in a tomb and/or the placing of more than one individual in an urn. The wealth of the grave assemblage, the location of the tomb in the cemetery and the structure of the tomb container probably depended on the rank, age, gender and social affiliation of the deceased. Inhumation graves were usually very simple, with scanty or no grave goods at all. Cremation tombs were generally covered with a small earth mound and a layer of pyre debris.

Illustration of grave

Figure 3. Reconstruction of Venetic cassetta grave: 1 burial mound; 2 pyre debris; 3 cassetta tomb container; 4 urn with cremated bones and grave goods (drawn by author).

The Evidence

Amulets and Pendants

This section discusses whether the Veneti employed selected categories of ornaments as a protection against malevolent supernatural forces. Amulets described by Latin authors such as bronze pendants, pierced shells, coral, amber and glass beads are often discovered in Venetic graves, sanctuaries and settlements. The question, however, is whether the Veneti truly believed that these objects had a magical power. Some information comes from Pliny the Elder, who remarks that still in his time women living in the Po plain used amber beads as both amulets and ornaments (NH XXXVII 30, 52). Another important point is the relative abundance of eye beads in Iron Age Veneto, as objects with an eye motif have been widely adopted as a protection against the evil eye from antiquity to the present day in the circum-Mediterranean area. The resemblance in shape, colour (especially blue) and decoration between eye beads common in Veneto and ancient Italy and similar examples still in use today in Egypt and the Middle East is striking. Further direct archaeological evidence suggests that the Veneti ascribed to beads, pendants and shells at least an extraordinary ritual value. The abundance of these items at sanctuaries such as Este Meggiaro, where initiations were probably held (Salerno 2002: 152), demonstrates their widespread adoption in official religious practices. The presence of human teeth and skin fragments inside bronze ornaments such as bucket-shaped pendants and bullae – the latter used in Rome as amulets by children until their initiation -- suggests that these items were used in those rituals of scarification so common during adulthood ceremonies (Maspero et al. 2002). The ritual value of these pendants is further revealed by the numerous bronze plaques discovered at different Venetic sanctuaries and embossed and engraved with images of women wearing a sort of standard, elaborate outfit enriched with necklaces of bullae (Zaghetto 2002: 290). The foundation cache unearthed in the most sacred area (the sacellum) of the Meggiaro sanctuary is also notable (Salerno 2002: 153). Four pits excavated at the four corners of the sacellum contained ritually charged items such as a bronze plaque inscribed with the name of the local deity, alimentary offerings, a pig foetus, an ovicaprin tooth, fragmented ceramics, some bullae and glass and amber beads. This evidence indicates the enormous symbolic value granted by the Veneti to bullae and beads, employed in this case during the solemn foundation ceremony which consecrated the ritual core of the sanctuary.

Further evidence which suggests the adoption of specific categories of ornaments as amulets is their recurrent presence in female and infant graves as opposed to their rarity in male tombs (Chieco Bianchi and Calzavara Capuis 1985; 2006). This evidence is concordant with a wealth of ethno-historical research which emphasizes the voracious consumption of amulets by young women and children in pre-modern societies, probably due to the higher risk of premature death incurred by these subjects in respect to men (e.g. Gilchrist 2008; Paine 2004; Pauli 1975). Support to the hypothesis that at least some ornaments were used as amulets is also given by the presence of bullae and amber beads in the burial of horses (Capuis and Ruta Serafini 2002: 40; Gambacurta and Tirelli 1996). Ethnographic research reveals that valuable domestic animals, and especially horses, are often felt in need of magical protection and provided with amulets (Lykiardopolous 1981; Paine 2004). This suggestion is rich in implications for pre-Roman Veneto, where horses were surely considered precious ‘goods’ for their symbolic and economical value, and may have been believed at risk of evil supernatural attacks.

Another element which strengthens the hypothesis that beads and pendants were used as amulets is their employment in combination. This is remarkable, since, as emphasized by both Latin authors and ethno-historical research, amulet bearers often employed more than one amulet at once to augment the supernatural protection at their disposal (Chierici 1999; Elworthy [1895] 2004; Lykiardopolous 1981: 227). For example, in Este Ricovero tomb 126 (325-300 BC), one of the infant urns contained a rare bead with a complex eye decoration and a bulla as the only elements of the dead person’s personal grave assemblage (Michelini and Paiola 1998). Amber, coral and glass beads were generally employed together to produce a variety of ornaments ranging from small necklaces for children to huge pendant/pectorals worn by elite women. Necklaces and pectorals were often completed with bronze and bone pendants, bullae, pierced shells, cowries, and pierced stones. Albeit more rarely, they were associated with bronze pendants or terracotta figurines in the shape of a foot or a hand, possibly intended to protect/heal the related body part, or to avert the evil eye (e.g. Alfonsi 1922; Chieco Bianchi and Calzavara Capuis 2006: 94-95). A hand pendant from Este portrays a possible apotropaic gesture (the middle finger is down) (Callegari 1932). Similar gestures such as the fica and the corna (‘devil’s horns’), or amulets reproducing them, have been used from ancient Greek to contemporary Italy to ward off malicious supernatural influences (Elworthy [1895] 2004; Lykiardopolous 1981: 227; Vukanovic 1981: 44). Interestingly, the ‘horn hand’ from Este was found in a possible infant grave, associated with four pierced shells. A pendant/pectoral from Este Ricovero tomb 234 was enriched with at least one eye bead and 17 Egyptian faience amulets (Chieco Bianchi and Calzavara Capuis 1985: 281-294). The latter were widely employed in Egypt and exported across the Mediterranean for their supposed magical powers (Ferrari 1996).

It is noteworthy that only some dead individuals were endowed with coral, amber and glass ornaments. Although approximately 30% of the tombs from the wealthy Benvenuti cemetery contained at least one bead, a more precise calculation taking into account the fact that several graves included two or more urns shows that only 20% of the urns contained beads. Given that almost 30% of the urns contained more than one dead, the percentage of the individuals endowed with beads is even lower, albeit not exactly quantifiable. Apart from gender, another possible factor which determined whether a deceased received coral, amber and glass beads was rank. Beads, particularly if imported, were probably regarded as prestigious items, and tended to appear in tombs rich beyond the average, or in elite burials characterised by luxurious grave goods. This is confirmed by statistical analysis of the non-elite Via Tiepolo and Via Versori cemeteries, where the percentage of tombs with precious beads drops significantly (c. 8% at Via Tiepolo, and no example at all at Via Versori). The obvious value of beads as gender and status markers does not invalidate the hypothesis that they were adopted as amulets. The correlation with specific categories of dead such as women, infants and prosperous individuals suggests their employment against the evil eye, which, as a consequence of envy, is often directed against a family’s most precious possessions, i.e. fertile women, children, wealth and animals (Lykiardopolous 1981; Paine 2004). This hypothesis is obviously strengthened by the recurrent presence of glass eye beads in the tombs of these subjects.

Selected Animal Remains in Ritual Contexts

Latin accounts widely emphasise the magical value granted in Roman Italy to selected animal remains such as horns and teeth (Chierici 1999). The supposed occult power of teeth and horns, especially against the evil eye, is also underlined by ethno-historical scholarship (Lykiardopolous 1981: 227). In Veneto, the deliberate deposition of animal remains in settlements, sanctuaries and graves was widespread. Bones associated with pottery and showing butchering marks were probably alimentary offerings. In other cases, however, more intriguing interpretations of the evidence are possible. The burial of selected animal remains clearly intended to be carried on the body (e.g. pierced) suggests their employment as amulets, ornaments, or both. The association of such items with other possible amulets was not uncommon. For example, the remains of a pierced mallard wing have been found in Ricovero tomb 44/1989, a wealthy cremation grave dating to the end of the 7th century BC . The tomb, belonging to a young couple buried together in the urn, also contained a flint and a necklace made of amber, coral, faience, bone and shell elements (Michelini and Bagolan 1998). The use of inscribed animal bones as sortes (implements used for foretelling) is attested in early Roman Veneto and possibly even earlier (Marinetti 2000). An animal bone carrying a probable votive inscription has been recently found under a public edifice at Oderzo, in eastern Veneto (Montagnaro and Marinetti 2009). The intentional interment of non-edible animal remains, including horns, teeth, mandibles, astragali and snake (or bird) eggs, in the foundation layers of houses, ritual structures, funerary tumuli and boundary markers is indeed widely documented (e.g. Bianco et al. 1998; Fiore and Tagliacozzo 2001; Gambacurta 2000; Gambacurta et al. 2005; Ruta Serafini and Valle 1996). Obviously, we cannot exclude the possibility that in many cases such remains were still intended as alimentary offerings, as tokens or symbols of the entire animal (pars pro toto). However, this is not the case for inscribed animal bones. The deliberate deposition of inscribed animal bones used for foretelling (sortes) is attested in early Roman Veneto and possibly even earlier (Marinetti 2000). An animal bone carrying a probable votive inscription has been recently found under a public edifice at Oderzo, in eastern Veneto (Montagnaro and Marinetti 2009). Moreover, the placing of supposed magical implements under a building for supernatural protection was common in ancient Italy and worldwide (Guidi 2004; Paine 2004). In Iron Age Veneto, a notable case is perhaps the deposition of horns under a furnace at Concordia in eastern Veneto (Di Filippo Balestrazzi 1996: 203). This occurrence, albeit not definitive proof of the adoption of magic in pre-Roman Veneto, is interesting, as ethno-historical sources remark on the magical meaning of smelting and metal in ancient and non-Western societies (Guidi 2004) as well as the importance of interring magical substances under the furnace to facilitate the smelting process (e.g. Reid and MacLein 1995). It is also noteworthy that caches of selected animal bones sometimes contained other possible magical items such as coins, bullae, pierced pebbles and beads (e.g. Bianco et al. 1998; Gambacurta 2000). The evidence provided so far, therefore, suggests that the caching of selected animal bones was possibly meant to consecrate or protect ritual and mundane structures through the offering and interment of supposed 'powerful' parts of the animal’s body.

The hypothesis that selected animal remains buried in Venetic graves may have been amulets has already been advanced by Chierici (1999). However, this interpretation is not straightforward. For instance, the recurrent presence of swine teeth in the wealthiest early Iron Age tombs suggests that these items may have been rank markers signalling the dead individual’s prominent status. This could be the case at cremation Ricovero tombs 143 and 236 at Este (Calzavara Capuis and Chieco Bianchi 1985) and the so-called ‘Tomb of the King’ at Padua (Calzavara 1976), all of them characterised by the presence of abundant grave goods, luxurious dining sets and weapons. Similarly, the numerous astragali placed inside or on the covering slab of later elite graves may have been indicators of wealth, since they implied the possession of several animals. Conversely, the numerous astragali and non-pierced shells found in simple children’s tombs were possibly toys, as was common in the ancient world. For example, eight shells were associated with a die in 6th century Via Tiepolo tomb 27, which belonged to a female adolescent (Ruta Serafini 1990: 127). Further evidence undermines the possibility that all the selected animal remains interred in Venetic graves were amulets. In both female and male tombs, animal teeth were often associated with tools for leather/skin-working (Chieco Bianchi and Calzavara Capuis 1985; 2006) and may have been instruments, role markers and/or symbols of the possession/procurement of the animals. The best example is offered by cremation Saletto tomb 18 at Montagnana, near Este (650-600 BC; Sainati 1998), where a vessel contained a complete toolkit composed of two awls, a whetstone, a knife, a wild boar tooth and two deer horns. The hypothesis that some animal remains were used as instruments is strengthened by recent research which has demonstrated that astragali with smoothed faces were employed for ceramic and leather/skin-working (Riedel and Tecchiati 2001). Unfortunately, the astragali excavated in Venetic tombs in the past were rarely examined and/or described in detail, although this attitude is rapidly changing.

Other contexts are more ambiguous. For instance, in cremation Benvenuti tomb 64 (700-675 BC), one of the urns was surrounded by a complete dining set which included a cup containing a pig tooth and an astragalus (Chieco Bianchi and Calzavara Capuis 2006: 79-83). The fact that the astragalus was pierced (i.e. used before interment) seems to exclude the possibility that the bones were alimentary offerings. However, it is unclear whether they were amulets, ornaments, symbolic references to farming or gifts for the dead. An interpretation as magical implements is perhaps possible for those non-edible animal remains directly associated with other amulets, or interred in anomalous burials, or whose placing in the tomb is otherwise inexplicable. This could be the case of the beaver tooth placed at the bottom of Benvenuti tomb 78 (625-600 BC) with a shell and, unusually, a layer of pyre debris (Chieco Bianchi and Calzavara Capuis 2006: 120-6). The association with the shell seems significant, since the employment of shells as magical implements both in the Mediterranean area and worldwide has been widely emphasised by ethno-historical research (Chierici 1999; Paine 2004). The importance of shells in Venetic rituals is demonstrated by their relative abundance in sanctuary and funerary contexts. Shells, either pierced or not, have been found in around 9% of the tombs from Este Benvenuti and 10% of the graves from Padua Via Tiepolo. The use of shells as grave goods shows a variety of practice which suggests that these items may have assumed different meanings according to the circumstances. Variety of placement and number in each grave was the norm. If pierced shells were generally placed in cremation urns and were probably adopted as amulets/ornaments often in association with beads and other pendants, non-pierced shells have been found inside the urn, under the urn, inside other vessels also placed in the grave, in the filling or at the bottom of cremation graves, or near the body of the deceased in inhumation burials. Chieco Bianchi and Calzavara Capuis (1985: 75-76) have already discussed the variability in the funerary use of shells in Iron Age Veneto, suggesting that non-pierced shells may have been magical devices, food residues, pre-currency 'coins,' or the Venetic equivalents of Charon's obol (i.e. a provision for the afterlife, also used to prevent the dead from coming back: Stevens 1991). According to the two scholars, the same considerations also apply to astragali, whose variety of placement and number in each tomb is comparable to that of shells (Chieco Bianchi and Calzavara Capuis 1985: 75-76). Findings from Via Tiepolo tomb 27, mentioned above, demonstrate that shells were also used as toys. The possibility that at least in some cases shells were placed in Venetic tombs for their supposed magical properties is suggested by their almost exclusive deposition in infant and female burials (but see Bondini 2005 for an exception) as well as by their common association with other probable amulets.

I conclude this section by discussing the deposition of selected non-edible animal remains in the grave’s filling and/or earth mound, or on the covering slab of cremation graves. This practice was rare (approximately 3% of tombs at the Este Benvenuti cemetery). At Este, which offers the best evidence for this ritual, the bones were sometimes accompanied by ceramics fragments alluding to libations performed when the tomb was closed (e.g. Chieco Bianchi and Calzavara Capuis 2006: 339-48), or by role/rank markers such as weaving implements (e.g. Chieco Bianchi and Calzavara Capuis 1985: 68-77).  Since such offerings were generally associated with multiple elite burials (e.g. Gambacurta et al. 2005), a first explanation is that the ritual signalled the dead individual’s prominent status. However, not all the wealthiest graves were granted this particular treatment; complex social and religious motivations must have led to the choice of subjects who received this homage. Moreover, the fragmentation of vessels had religious implications, since intentionally broken ceramics are also found in sanctuaries and caches. The evidence provided in the previous paragraphs suggests that, at least in some circumstances, the interment of selected animal remains over the grave may have been due to religious and/or magical reasons that had little to do with the dead individual’s high status. For example, the offerings may have assumed an apotropaic value, and have been placed at the entrance of the grave to ‘seal’ it, in order to accompany the dead towards the afterlife and prevent him/her coming back.

This hypothesis is strengthened by the presence of selected non-edible animal remains over non-elite graves, especially in the case of female and infant burials. For example, a bear tooth was placed in the mound of Saletto tomb 16, a rather wealthy but not elite 7th century BC cremation tomb belonging to an adult of unknown sex (possibly a male according to the grave assemblage). This grave also contained a dog tooth (Sainati 1998). A similar occurrence is another adult cremation grave found at Gazzo Veronese near Verona (i.e. Colombara tomb 143). In this case, four astragali were placed in the grave's filling, while a pierced shell and three other astragali were buried inside the tomb container (Drusini et al. 2001; Salzani 2001: 100-101). A peculiar connotation to this grave and the deceased buried within is given by the presence, among the grave goods, of a very rare laminated bronze sickle, which has been interpreted as insignia or a role/status marker related to the religious/magical sphere. Interestingly, of the three examples of laminated sickles known so far, one has been unearthed in the Meggiaro sanctuary mentioned above, i.e. in a clear ritual context (Salzani 2001: 101). A comparable finding is probably Lovara tomb 13, a 7th century infant cremation grave excavated in the Verona countryside (Malnati et al. 2000) (fig. 4). Given the simplicity of the grave, the single astragalus found in the tomb’s filling is hardly conceivable as an indicator of wealth and high status. The presence of other possible amulets  among the grave goods (three shells, three bone beads, a rare bronze pendant and two blue glass beads) further reinforces this hypothesis. The peculiarity of this deposition is reinforced by the placing of a rare swan egg in the urn. Since there is no clear evidence that the Veneti put alimentary offerings in the cinerary vessel, the egg should not be interpreted as food. The recurrent association of eggs with re-birth, both in ancient Italy and worldwide, and the special status given to aquatic birds in Venetic ritual and imagery (Malnati et al. 2000; Tirelli 2001) suggest that the infant buried in Lovara tomb 13 was granted an anomalous mortuary ritual. This hypothesis is further strengthened by the placing of the astragalus in the filling, which may have been intended as a magical device to protect the grave of a person particularly in need of supernatural defence, or particularly dangerous to her community.

Illustration of artefacts

Figure 4. Grave goods from Lovara tomb 13. 8-10: bracelets; 17: urn; 11: astragalus; 12: bronze pendant; 13-15: shells; 16: swan egg (Salzani 2008).

Discussion: the Social Meaning of Magic

This section finally considers the importance of magic as a social phenomenon. Ethnographic studies reveal the role of magic in expressing social tensions and achieving control over subordinates. For example, in Africa, witch-finding plays significant roles in ethnic or family conflicts (Bowie 2006: 207-11) and was used to condemn supposed witches to the slave trade (Shaw 1997). The role of Medieval and modern witchcraft accusations as a consequence of gender, age, religion and class tensions is well-acknowledged (Willis 1995). Beliefs in the evil eye are rooted both into widespread emotional response to the fear of envy and into mechanisms of social competition and gender-related hostility (Bowie 2006; Foster 1972). On the Island of Pantelleria (Italy), individuals affected by the evil eye are not considered malevolent (Galt 1982). The diffusion of protective amulets during the 1970s has been explained as the desire to display wealth indirectly by emphasising the possibility to be subjected to envy in a phase of social change marked by the influx of modern commodities from Italy. Conversely, evil eye accusations in Greece are directed against marginal people to sanction supposed anti-social behaviours (Herzfeld 1981). In Spain, evil eye bearers are women whose  sexuality does not conform to a proper code of conduct. Magic, therefore, becomes a means to define relations between sexes and ratify men's dominance over women (Brandes 1981). Similarly, among the Bimin-Kuskusmin of New Guinea, male magic is considered powerful and benign, while female magic is considered weaker and evil (Poole 1981).

The role of amulets is to be put into this context. Amulets bear several layers of meaning. Their magical power is not the unique reason for which they are used. In Thailand, for example, amulets with images of the Buddha and local saints are dug up in old sanctuaries, consecrated by monks, and sold. Their iconography appears on the kingdom’s palladium and has been used to legitimize political power. They also embody personal beliefs and emotions, and are thought to increase the possessor’s psycho-physical strength. The enormous consumption of amulets by men during the 1970s was motivated by the anxiety to boost male aggressiveness in a period of increased social instability and gender-related violence (Tambiah 1984). Among Native-American Iroquois, wampum shell beads embedded both practical and magical meanings (Snyder 1999). During the Contact period, the rarity of the beads made them luxury items employed to negotiate political and economic relationships between the Iroquois, their Native-American enemies and the Europeans. However, the wampum's most important use was ritual, and rooted into Iroquois cosmology. The shells were symbols of eternal life and gifts from the gods to help the dead during his/her voyage toward the afterlife. Some dead individuals, however, were considered sources of evil: in these cases wampum shells were used to bind malevolent spirits.

Similar considerations are applicable to past societies including Veneto. The practice of magic and the manipulation of magical objects may have had a significant role in the management of power and the elaboration of personal identity. Amulets, being both material items and the receptacles of supernatural power, must be considered an amalgamation between immanent and transcendent. Here archaeological categories conflate. The relation between matter and ideology, religion and superstition, mind and body escapes any attempt at classification. As an example, how can we define a glass bead placed in a wealthy Venetic infant tomb? The preciousness of the material makes it a means or symbol of rank domination and renders the child both an instrument for wealth display, and the privileged consumer of an item which her lessen counterparts did not possess. The use of necklaces of beads since childhood must have been a powerful means to inculcate and acquire gender and age identities. This form of learning was enhanced by the strong impact these ornaments had on the users’ physical sensations. The bright colours, the weight and the sounds evoked by beads must have shaped the perceptions women had of their bodies. The incorporation of exotic materials into the local context – as in the case of the Egyptian amulets associated with the pendant/pectoral from elite Ricovero tomb 234 - implied both a rearrangement of existing modalities of consumption and complex forms of negotiation between producers, traders, importers and consumers. As discussed in relation to amber by Beck and Shennan (1991: 135-140), the consumption of mysterious items implies the mastering of exoteric knowledge, a knowledge that in Veneto, as elsewhere, was possibly appropriated by the elites.

If precious beads were also regarded as amulets, more multi-faceted interpretations of the evidence are possible. Between magic and materiality, amulet bearers – usually children and women – may have become the fulcrums of social tensions involving exploitation, gender antagonism and power negotiation. Were Venetic possessors of amulets empowered by their close connection to magic, or did their supposed susceptibility to supernatural evil sanction a condition of social inferiority vis-à-vis those, especially men, who did not need any magical protection? Did Venetic women deliberately chose to protect themselves and their children with amulets, or was the fear of the evil eye, with its widespread connection to sexuality and reproduction (e.g. Dundes 1992), a means of domination employed by the community to control potentially destabilising individuals? Although it is impossibile to answer these questions directly, the archeological record sometimes offers important evidence to cast some light on the social role of Venetic people buried with probable amulets. An interesting case is cremation Benvenuti tomb 126 (c. 600 BC), one of the wealthiest graves ever excavated at Este (Chieco Bianchi and Calzavara Capuis 2006: 320-331). The tomb contained two ceramic urns and a rich array of ornaments and vessels. The smallest urn, pertaining to a 1 to 3 year-old child, was wrapped in a cloth sewn with white and blue tiny glass beads and two bronze disks. A large necklace of amber, coral, glass and bronze pendants clearly pertaining to an adult woman surrounded the small cinerary container. The latter was finally placed in a larger metal vessel embossed and engraved with depictions of warfare and ritual feasting where men are the only participants. Overall, these findings from Benvenuti tomb 126 shed light on the complex ideological processes involved in the construction of the post-mortem identity of an elite child in late 7th century BC Veneto. Although not completely deprived of his/her own infant self (i.e. the deposition in a small olla urn, characteristic of infant burials), the child was also granted a fictictious adult identity through the association with powerful status symbols (i.e. the ornaments and the bronze vessel) referring to both the female and the male gender. If the beads surrounding the urn were amulets, magic might have been employed by the child’s kin group as a means of protection, revealing love and care for the young deceased, especially if the necklace was a gift from a beloved one, perhaps the mother. It is plausible, however, that more complex reasons motivated the adoption of amulets during the child’s funerary rite, including the need to deal with the demise of a ‘mighty deaceased,’ a possible ‘dynastic heir,’ whose death was probably felt as a source of social and ontological instability and therefore a possible cause of danger and pollution.

The placing of amulets in very simple graves - especially those of women and children – might relate to social powerlessness and marginality. On the one hand, marginal people may have resorted to magic for protection in the absence of anything better. On the other, it is possible that supposed 'marginal' graves endowed with amulets did not necessarily pertain to low-ranking people, but to individuals whose peculiar circumstances of life and death were so feared by the community to motivate the adoption of an unusual burial rite. A first example might be Ricovero tomb 215, a very simple cremation burial dating to the 6th century BC and belonging to an adult woman (Chieco Bianchi and Calzavara Capuis 1985: 220; Ovidi 2006). The urn, unusually a coarse domestic pot, did not contain any grave goods but 29 pierced valves of Dog cockle shells (Glycimeris glycimeris) and a deer horn. The lack of a proper burial assemblage is notable, as Iron Age Venetic women were commonly buried with at least a minimal set of ornaments and tools. Even more interestingly, this is the only adult cremation grave I know about where the burial provision placed in the urn was constituted exclusively by possible amulets. The location of the grave in the cemetery, far from the other tombs, is also noteworthy, and seems to speak of isolation, exclusion and marginality (Capuis 1986: 116). A comparable case is offered by a small, isolated group of three infant inhumations found in the non-elite cemetery of Este Via Versori (Bondini 2005: 54-55). The three graves (11, 12 and 13) were created near each other in a short space of time around 325-275 BC. Tomb 11 contained the remains of a 7 to 8 year-old child affected with rachitism. The grave, a simple pit, did not contain any grave offering but a fragment of an adult humerus. Tomb 12 was excavated in the filling of tomb 13 and belonged to a perinatal infant. A shell valve placed under the baby's back was the only grave good. Tomb 13, which had the same orientation of tomb 11, was a 9 to 10 year-old child buried tightly wrapped in a shroud and with no grave goods at all. In the case of this tomb group, the adoption of a rare burial rite (inhumation) as well as the deposition of anomalous burial offerings (the human bone in tomb 11) and possible amulets (the shell in tomb 12) with two individuals clearly falling in those categories of 'abnormal' dead discussed above (i.e. the sick and the immature) strongly substantiate the hypothesis that the Veneti might have resorted to magic for dealing with the deposition of people felt to be at the margin of society as a result of their peculiar circumstances of life and death, and therefore in need of supernatural protection or control.

Conclusions

This paper has reassessed existing archaeological evidence from Iron Age Veneto to verify whether the Veneti believed in magic. By drawing on ethno-historical comparisons and contextual analysis I have shown that amber, coral, glass beads, pierced shells and pendants may have been employed as amulets, possibly as a protection against the evil eye. According to the funerary evidence available, their use was generally restricted to women and children, although sometimes these items are also found in male graves. The majority of possible amulets have been found in rather wealthy or elite graves, but this evidence might be a result of uneven survival. As in other cultural contexts, a hidden patrimony of spells, love charms, amulets in perishable materials, and herbs used for magical purposes must have existed and been exploited by both elite and marginal individuals in a variety of circumstances. Selected non-edible animal remains buried in tombs, sanctuaries and settlements may have assumed different values according to the circumstances. Their meaning as sacrificial residues, magical implements, tools, and role/rank markers can be understood only through a careful evaluation of the context of deposition. Although more evidence is needed, the placing of selected animal remains in the tombs of ‘anomalous’ individuals would suggest that at least in some cases these items were indeed used as magical devices to deal with the demise of dangerous people or dead persons particularly in need of magical protection. A more refined statistical and spatial analysis is needed to strengthen the preliminary hypotheses proposed in this work, and will be carried out in the future. The main point of this article, however, was to show that, although it is impossible to demonstrate beyond any doubt that the Veneti believed in magic, there is a need to employ a more sophisticated approach when looking at ‘little and unimportant’ items such as beads and animal bones. The study of small finds has a great deal to reveal on wider issues such as the management of power and the construction of people’s identity in the past.

Acknowledgements

This article is loosely based on my 2007 MA dissertation. My gratitude is to my MA (and PhD) supervisor, Dr. Corinna Riva, for all her advice and encouragement over the years, and to the Rotary Foundation of the Rotary International for financial sponsorship. I also thank the anonymous referees for their very useful comments and Federica Guidi for the permission to mention her unpublished thesis in my paper. Pictures 2 and 4 have been reproduced with the permission of Dott. Luciano Salzani (Soprintendenza ai Beni Archeologici del Veneto, Verona), whom I warmly thank for his helpfulness.

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Appendix

Possible amulets from the Benvenuti cemetery of Este (Chieco Bianchi and Calzavara Capuis 2006).

‘Location’ indicates where the amulet was found (‘pyre debris’ = amulet found outside the tomb container in the pyre debris; ‘cover’ = amulet found on the tomb’s covering slab; ‘urn’ = amulet found in the urn; ‘tomb’ = amulet found inside the tomb container but outside the urn). Gender: F = female; M = male. Bronze pendants are not considered in this table with the exclusion of bullae, bucket-shaped pendants, and pendants in the shape of a human limb or the human body.

BENVENUTI   

Excavation period

end of 19th century

Additional information

Time span

8th – 1st centuries BC

The vast majority of cremation tombs contained at least two urns (some tombs were plundered and the number of urns is uncertain); the only inhumation burial contained 2 people.

Osteological analysis of cremated human remains has been recently carried out for 56 urns, which contained a minimum of 75 individuals.

Sex was determined for 30 individuals out of 75.
Age was determined for 73 individuals out of 75.

16 urns out of 56 contained two or more individuals.

tombs

 99 (98 cremation tombs, 1 inhumation)

sex*

 24 F
 6   M
 *cremations only

age*

 41 infants (0/13 year-old)
 22 adults   (21/40 year-old)
 3   young people (14/20 year-old)
 9   mature people (41/60 year-old)
 *inhumations + cremations

Table 1.Summary of burials.

Tomb

Location

Type of amulet

Gender & age

Additional information

58 (700-675 BC)
4 urns

tomb

2 pierced mallard bones

 

Cassetta grave. No osteological analysis. F grave goods and one possible infant deposition.

59 (725-700 BC)

 ?

amber (brooch)

 

Cassetta grave. Looted?

60 (700-675 BC)
2 urns

pyre debris

9 pierced shell valves
2 shells (1 fragment)

 

Small cassetta grave. No osteological analysis
but grave goods and small urns indicate two infant depositions.

urn 5

1 glass bead

infant?

tomb

2 astragali

 

63 (700-675 BC)
4 urns

urn 21?

2 pig teeth

F?

Large cassetta grave. No osteological analysis but F and infant grave goods.

64 (700-675 BC)
2 urns

tomb

1 pig tooth
1 pierced astragalus

placed in a cup found near
urn 1, with M grave goods

Cassetta grave. No osteological analysis.

65 (625-600 BC)
1 urn?

urn?

1 amber bead
1 eye glass bead

F?

Cassetta grave found in precarious condition. Contained rich F grave goods.

69 (c. 700 BC)
3 urns

urn 1

1 ‘amulet’ in shape of foot
1 amber bead

F? (urn probably contained
more than one individual)

Rich cassetta grave. No osteological analysis but grave goods indicate three F depositions.

70 (700-675)
3 urns (?)

?

11 amber beads
2 (?) shells

 

Cassetta in precarious conditions. F, M (?) and infant grave goods. No osteological analysis.

71 (800-775)
2 urns

pyre debris

flint

 

Simple pit grave lined with stone. F and infant grave goods. No osteological analysis.

72 (c. 625 BC)
3 urns

urn 7

1 amber disk
10 glass beads

F?

Cassetta grave. No osteological analysis but F and infant grave goods.

tomb

7 shell valves

 

73 (700-675 BC)
3 urns

urn 1

amber (brooch)

F?

Cassetta grave. No bone analysis but F grave goods in urn 1. No objects in the other two urns.

77 (700-600 BC)
3 urns

urn 1

amber (brooch)

21/40 year-old F + 1/3 year-old infant

Cassetta grave. Osteological analysis for urn 1. F grave goods in urn 8.

urn 8

amber (brooch)

F?

78 (625-600 BC)
2 urns

urn 1

1 pig tooth (pendant)
coral, amber & glass beads

F?

Cassetta grave. No osteological analysis but F grave goods in both urns 1 and 17. The latter, very small, may have been an infant burial.

tomb

1 beaver tooth, 1 shell

 

79 (c. 600 BC)
2 urns

urn 1

1 boot-shaped pendant
amber, coral & glass beads

F?

Wealthy cassetta grave. F grave goods in urn 1. Osteological analysis for urn 33.

urn 33

amber (brooch)
coral beads

21/40 year-old F + 2/4 year-old infant

81 (5th century BC)
1 urn

urn 1

1 bulla

21/40 year-old (F?)

Pit grave with dolium-urn. Osteological analysis: age was determined but not sex. F grave goods.

83 (625-600 BC)
2 urns

urn 1

amber (brooch)
faience beads

14/20 year-old (F?)

Cassetta grave. Osteological analysis. Both urns contained the remains of a 14/20 year-old individual + F grave goods.

?

amber (necklace)

 

85 (625-600 BC)
2 urns

urn 1

coral & glass beads

14/20 year-old F + 0/1 year-old infant

Cassetta grave. Osteological analysis for urn 1.

87 (600-550)
1 urn

urn 1

coral & amber beads

F infant?

Simple pit grave with stone slab. No osteological analysis but F infant grave goods.

88 (600-550)
1 urn

?

3 horse teeth
5 pierced shell valves

1/2 year-old infant (F?)

Simple pit grave lined with stones. Osteological analysis. A spindle whorl indicates a F grave.

89 (625-600 BC)
2 urns?

?

glass beads

 

Poorly preserved cassetta. No osteological analysis but F and infant grave goods.

90 (c. 550 BC)
3 urns

urn 1

coral & glass beads

F?

Poorly preserved cassetta grave. No osteological analysis but mainly F grave goods.

91 (c. 550 BC)
3 urns

urn 1

amber, coral & glass beads (1 eye bead)

F?

Cassetta grave. Osteological analysis for urn 17 which contained two 1 year-old children but no grave goods. F grave goods in urns 1 and 11.

urn 11

coral (brooch)

F?

92 (525-500 BC)
5 urns

urn 1

amber & coral (brooches)
2 bucket-shaped pendants
glass beads

F?

Cassetta grave. No osteological analysis but F grave goods in urn 1. Apparently, no grave goods in the other urns.

93 (c. 450 BC)
2 urns

urn 1

2 bucket-shaped pendants

F?

Cassetta grave. No osteological analisys.

urn 7

4 glass beads

M? + infant?

94 (c. 325 BC)
4 urns

tomb

2 donkey teeth

21/40 year-old M
41/60 year-old F
2/4 year-old infant
1/2 year-old infant

Cassetta grave. Osteological analysis.

95 (525-500 BC)
2 urns

urn 1

coral (brooch)
amber & glass beads

F?

Cassetta grave. Looted. No osteological analysis but F grave goods in urn 1.

tomb

pig tooth

 

98 (525-475 BC)
3 urns

urn 1

coral (brooch)

F? + infant?

Cassetta grave. No osteological analysis but F and infant grave goods.

urn 13

amber & glass beads

F? + infant?

urn 31

bullae

infant?

99 (575-525 BC)
2 urns

urn 12

amber beads
1 shell

21/40 year-old F + ? (M?)

Cassetta grave. Osteological analysis for urn 12. F
grave goods in urn 1.

101 (525-500 BC)
2 urns

urn 1

1 bulla

21/40 year-old F + 4/7 year-old infant

Cassetta grave. Osteological analysis for urn 1; urn 13 contained a glass spindle whorl .

103 (425-400 BC)
3 urns

urn 1

amber & glass beads

1 year-old infant

Cassetta grave. Poor excavation data. Osteological analysis for urn 1. F and M? grave goods in the other urns.

urn(s)?

coral (brooch)
glass beads

 

104 (c. 550 BC)
1 urn

urn 1

amber, coral & glass beads

F?

Cassetta grave with F grave goods. No osteological analysis.

105 (425-400 BC)
2 urns

urn 19

glass beads

infant? (a small urn with ‘little bones’)

Pit covered with stone. Urn 1 contained 7/9 year-old infant with F grave goods.

106 (c. 450 BC)
1 urn

urn 1

coral (brooch)

F?

Pit covered with stone. No osteological analysis but F grave goods.

108 (5th century BC)
3 urns

urn 1

coral (brooch)

F infant?

Cassetta grave. No osteological analysis but F and infant grave goods in urns 1 and 13.

urn 13

coral (brooch) ?

F? (infant?)

110 (425-350 BC)
3 urns

urn 1

glass beads, 1 bulla
bucket-shaped pendants

21/40 year-old F

Cassetta grave. Osteological analysis. Two infants buried together in urn 9.

urn 19

14 bullae, 1 cowry shell
amber & glass beads 
2 pierced pebbles

infant (less than 6 months)

112 (525-475 BC)
2 urns

urn 1

glass beads

21/40 year-old F + infant

Cassetta grave. Osteological analysis.

urn 6

coral & glass beads

1/2 year-old infant

113 (600-575 BC)
2 urns

tomb

1 horse tooth
1 pig tooth

 

Cassetta grave. No osteological analysis but M grave goods + possible infant deposition.

115 (400-350 BC)
2 urns

urn 1

coral (earring), 1 bulla
1 ox tooth

F? + infant?

Cassetta grave. No osteological analysis but F and infant grave goods. The ox tooth placed under the foot of urn 1.

urn 21

coral, amber & glass beads
(some eye beads)

F?

116 (400-350 BC)
3 urns

urn 1

1 coral bead

infant (less than 6 months)

Cassetta grave. Poor excavation evidence. A 21/40 year-old F in urn 4, a young baby in urn 12.

118 (400-275 BC)
5 urns

?

glass beads

infant? (the beads are tiny)

Cassetta grave. Looted. Poor excavation data. No osteological analysis. F, M and infant grave goods.

121 (3rd century BC)

?

bulla

?

Looted.

122 (625-600 BC)
2 urns

urn 1

amber, coral & glass beads
human-shaped pendants

F?

Very wealthy cassetta grave. Osteological analysis for urn 21. F grave goods in urn 1.

urn 21

2 shell valves, glass beads

21/40 year-old F

?

shell valves (some burned)

 

123 (275-25 BC)
10 urns

?

amber & glass beads
shell valves

two 0/1 year-old infants
50+ year-old man
0/7 year-old infant (F)

Very wealthy cassetta grave. Three other F + two other M according to epigraphic evidence
(epitaphs inscribed on urns).

124 (550 BC)
3 urns

urn 5

amber & glass beads

21/40 year-old F

Very wealthy cassetta grave. Poor excavation evidence. Urn 1 contained the remains of a 40/50 year-old individual (probably M) + a 5/6 year-old infant.

urn 7

amber beads

40/50 year-old F + 4/5 year old infant

urn(s)?

amber (2 brooches)
amber, coral & glass beads

 

125 (c. 125 – 0 BC)
21 urns

?

horse tooth

 

Cassetta grave. Looted? Poor excavation data. Epigraphic evidence for 5 F and 5 M.

126 (c. 600 BC)
2 urns

urn 1

amber, coral & glass beads

1/3 year-old infant (F?)

Very wealthy cassetta grave. Poor excavation data. Osteological analysis for urn 1 (+ F objects).

?

1 amber + 1 glass bead

 

277 (c. 700 BC)
1 urn

urn 1

2 amber beads

 21/40 year-old F + two infants

Wealthy cassetta grave. Osteological analysis.

278 (650-625 BC)
2 urns

cover

4 wild boar tusks

 

Wealthy cassetta grave. Osteological analysis. Two of the wild boar tusks originally used as horse-bites.

urn 1

(eye) glass beads

21/40 year-old F + ? (M?)

urn 38

coral & glass fragments

6/7 year-old infant

286 (725-675 BC)
1 urn

tomb

2 shell valves

7/8 year-old infant

Small cassetta grave. Osteological analysis.

287 (c. 700 BC)
1 urn

urn 1

1 pig tooth

40/60 year-old F

Cassetta grave. Osteological analysis.

tomb

1 flint

 

288 (725-675 BC?)

?

astragalus

 

Cassetta grave. Looted (?). Poor excavation data.

289 (700-675 BC)
2 urns

urn 3

1 roe deer horn
1 horse tooth

40/60 year-old F

Cassetta grave. Osteological analysis for urn 3. A possible M deposition in urn 1.

290 (625-600 BC)

?

1 deer horn
1 fossil of brachiopod

 

Wealthy cassetta grave. Looted. F, M and infant grave goods. Deer horn used as horse-bite.

295 (525-500 BC)
1 urn

urn 1

glass beads
1 eye glass bead

two 21/40 year old adults +
two infants

Dolium tomb. Osteological analysis. F, M and infant grave goods.

296 (525-600 BC)
3 urns

urn 1

4 bullae
2 glass beads

21/40 year-old F + 5/7 year-old infant

Cassetta grave. Osteological analysis. Urn 26. contained the remains of a 21/40 year-old F.

urn 16

amber, coral & glass beads

41/60 year-old F + 5/7 year-old infant

297 (225-200 BC)
4 urns

urn 1

4 shell valves
1 glass bead

21/40 year-old F + 4/6 year-old infant

Pit (or wooden cassetta) grave. A 21-40 year-old F in urn 7. An infant (less than 6 months) in urn 13.

urn 9

1 shell valve

infant (less than 6 months)

298 (425-375 BC)

 

2 bullae, amber beads
1 bucket-shaped pendant
1 pierced pebble
coral (brooch)

adult (F?) + infant

Double inhumation burial. Preliminary osteological analysis done by the first excavators. For the adult, the grave goods indicate a F burial.

Table 2. Details of amulets found within cemetery.