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The Golasecca culture is a proto-historic pre-Celtic culture in northern Italy of which the type-site is Golasecca in the province of Varese, Lombardy (northern Italy).


Sites characteristic of Golasecca culture have been identified in eastern Lombardy, Piedmont, the Canton Ticino and Val Mesolcina, in a territory stretching north of the Po River to sub-alpine zones, between the course of the Serio to the east and the Sesia to the west. The site of Golasecca, where the Ticino exits from Lake Maggiore, was particularly suitable for long-distance exchanges, in which Golaseccans acted as intermediaries between Etruscans and the Halstatt culture of Austria, supported on the all-important trade in salt.

In a broader context, the subalpine Golasecca culture is the very last expression of the Middle European Urnfield culture of the European Bronze Age. The culture's richest flowering was Golasecca II, in the first half of the sixth to early fifth centuries BCE. It lasted until it was overwhelmed by the Celts in the fourth century and was finally incorporated into the hegemony of the Roman Republic.

Golasecca culture is divided for convenient reference into three parts: the first two cover the period of the ninth to the first half of the fifth century BCE; the third, coinciding with La Tène A-B of the later Iron Age in this region and extending to the end of the fourth century BCE, is marked by increasing Celtic influences, culminating in Celtic hegemony after the conquests of 388 BCE. The very earliest finds are of the Late Bronze Age (ninth century), apparently building upon a local culture.[1]

Cremation near the burial site, followed by ash and bone burials in terracotta jars, in excavated pits set at determined distances one from the other in scattered necropolises, characterize a culture of many small village settlements.

In Golasecca culture some of the first evolved characteristics of historic society may be seen, in the specialized use of materials and the adaptation of the local terrain. The early-period habitations were circular wooden constructions along the edge of the river's floodplain; each was built on a low basement of stone round a central hearth and floored with river pebbles set in clay. Hand-shaped ceramics, made without a potter's wheel, were decorated in gesso. The use of the wheel is known from the carts in the Tomb of the Warrior at the Sesto Calende site. Amber beads from the Baltic sea across the Amber Road and obsidian reveal networks of long-distance trade. From the seventh century onwards some tombs contain burial goods imported from Etruscan areas and Greek objects[2]

The settlements depended on domesticated animals: remains reveal the presence of goats, sheep, pigs, cattle and horses. Some legume and cereal crops were cultivated; nuts and fruits were collected. The dugout boats from Castelletto Ticino and Porto Tolle are conserved at the museum of Isola Bella. Metal, though rare, was in increasing use.

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Undeciphered written characters are found incised in ceramics or on stone.

The Golasecca culture is best known by its burial customs, where an apparent ancestor cult imposed respect of the necropoli, a sacred area untouched by agrarian use or deforestation. The early-period burials took place in selected raised positions oriented with respect to the sun. Burial practices were direct inhumation or in lidded cistae. Stone circles and alignments are found. Burial urns were painted with designs, with accessory ceramics, such as cups on tall bases. Bronze objects are usually of wearing apparel: pins and fibulas, armbands, rings, earrings, pendants and necklaces. Bronze vessels are rare. The practice of cremation persists into the second period (early sixth to mid-fourth centuries).

The old sites—Golasecca, Sesto Calende, Castelletto Ticino—maintained their traditional autochthonous character through the sixth century, when outside influences begin to be detectable. At the beginning of the fifth century, pastoral practices resulted in the development of new settlements in the plains.

The first finds were discovered at several locations in the comune of Golasecca in 1824, by the antiquarian abate Giovan Battista Giani, who identified the clearly non-Roman burials as remains of the battle between Hannibal and Scipio Africanus[3]. In 1865 Louis Laurent Gabriel de Mortillet, a founder of European archaeology, rightly assigned the same tombs to the early Iron Age. The modern assessment of Golasecca culture is derived from the campaigns of 1965-69 on Monsorino, directed by Mira Bonomi.

See alsoEdit


  1. The nature of this "proto-Golasecca" culture shows that the culture was autochthonous— developed at its sites—rather than imported by immigrants. The use of tumuli over grave sites, like the tumulus at Belcora di Somma Lombardo, was a feature of proto-Golaseccan culture that died out.
  2. Especially in the elite Tomba del Lebete at Castelletto Ticino and the Tomb of the Warrior at Sesto Calende
  3. La battaglia del Ticino tra Annibale e Scipione" 1824.


Specific readingsEdit

  • Pauli, Ludwig, 1971. Die Golaseccakultur und Mitteleuropa: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des Handels über die Alpen (Hamburg: Hamburger Beiträge zur Archäologie). ISBN 3-87118-085-8
  • Ridgeway, Francesca, in David Ridgeway, Francesca Ridgeway, eds. Italy Before the Romans (Academic Press) 1979.

Further readingsEdit

  • Corbella, Roberto: "Celti : itinerari storici e turistici tra Lombardia, Piemonte, Svizzera", Macchione, Varese c2000; 119 p., ill.; 20 cm; ISBN 8883400305; EAN: 9788883400308
  • Corbella, Roberto: "Magia e mistero nella terra dei Celti : Como, Varesotto, Ossola"; Macchione, Varese 2004; 159 p. : ill. ; 25 cm; ISBN 8883401867; EAN: 9788883401862
  • D'AVERSA, Arnaldo: "La Valle Padana tra Etruschi, Celti e Romani", PAIDEIA, Brescia 1986, 101 p. ill., 21 cm, ISBN: 88-394-0381-7
  • Grassi, Maria Teresa: "I Celti in Italia" - 2. ed, LONGANESI, MILANO 1991 (BIBLIOTECA DI ARCHEOLOGIA); 154 p., 32 c. di tav., ill. ; 21 cm; ISBN 88-304-1012-8

it:Cultura di Golasecca lt:Golasekos kultūra ru:Культура Голасекка

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