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THE UNDERGROUND LEVEL OF THE DUCAL COURTYARD:
PREHISTORIC SECTION OF THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM


THE BRONZE AGE

Northern Italy (2200-900 BC)
The prehistoric section of the archaeological museum also provides interesting information on the Bronze Age. The period takes its name from the fact that people were adept at processing copper and its alloys, in particular bronze (an alloy of copper and tin). Ever since the 3rd millennium BC (i.e. the Copper Age), the advent of metal had replaced stone, which had been widely used for a variety of objects and activities before. At the same time, agricultural techniques were improved thanks to the introduction of ploughs, while the exchange of basic commodities and the advent of carts encouraged long-distance communications.
Ceramics
The technical skills, main needs and taste of the Bronze Age people are certainly reflected in their ceramics. As the characteristics of handmade ceramics are basically linked to the maker, archaeologists are often interested in ceramic artefacts to identify the links between different ethnic and cultural groups. The prehistoric section includes a wide range of variously shaped handmade earthenware decorated with engraved geometric motifs and plastic elements. Hardly decorated, the earliest pieces have a narrow mouth and plain handles, whereas more recent ones are wide mouthed and the latest examples are characterised by plastic handles and a rich decoration.

Bronze working
On display in the prehistoric section are also objects which testify the metal processing techniques used by the Bronze Age people along with the stone chipping techniques. Among the most interesting exhibits are tuyeres, copper thin threads and bronze artefacts such as arrows, brooches and axes providing evidence for the activity of skilled craftsmen who probably used to travel from one area to another in the earliest times and later became integral members of the community. The copper and tin ores were heated (roasting and smelting), then reduced to thin threads or bars and taken to the craftsmen in the community to be cast as bronze objects. The Alps abounded in copper ore deposits, whereas the tin ores came from Cornwall, Great Britain.
   
Hoards
During the Bronze Age, metal objects of considerable distinction such as weapons and personal ornaments were often buried. Archaeologists think that these objects were being hidden for safe-keeping and against metal shortage. In most cases, hoards belonged to metal workers. During the Early Bronze Age (2200-1600 BC) metal object were kept inside hoards located far from the inhabited places, most probably on a commercial line between the Apennines and the Ticino Canton, in Switzerland. The hoards that have been discovered mainly consisted of artefacts from North Italy and transalpine Europe, giving rise to the assumption that these were probably hidden by travelling salesmen. During the Middle and Late Bronze Ages (1600-1200 BC), hoards disappeared and the travelling metal workers were replaced by workers living in the local communities.
   
Bone and horn working
The prehistoric section includes a varied display of bone and horn objects from the Middle Bronze Age, a period when specific metal tools (e.g. metal handsaw, drawing instruments for decorations) were introduced to make various artefacts, such as drifts, knives, pins and handles out of these materials. The Bronze Age people mainly used horn, in particular hartshorn, which was a much harder and denser material than bone. During the Bronze Age, harts could be found also in the Po Valley and, as they lose their antlers every year, plenty of horn material was always available for use and there was no need to kill the animals.

Wood working
Among the exhibits on display in the prehistoric section of the archaeological museum are extraordinary artefacts, which were made out of wood by using metal tools such as axes, handsaws, pegging awls, drifts and knives. Crafts such as wood working were generally carried out by men working at home. Other crafts, such as the making of carts, were carried out by skilled craftsmen.

Scamozzina and Canegrate necropolises
The prehistoric section also exhibits interesting findings from Scamozzina Monza Alba (near Milan), dating from between the 14th and 13th centuries BC, as well as other findings from Canegrate (near Milan), dated to the 13th century BC. The Scamozzina civilization developed in western Lombardy and Piedmont while the Canegrate civilization in western Lombardy, eastern Piedmont and in the Ticino Canton. Cremation seems to be an element of cultural unity between the Scamozzina and Canegrate dwellers, who regarded fire as a central element of their funerary rites and rituals. The cremation tradition first imposed itself in Scamozzina. Along with the ashes of the dead, the funerary urns often contained bronze arms and ornaments, which could either have lost their proper shape because of the blaze heat or have been broken off to symbolize death. Bronze objects could also be left inside the urn as a votive offering. Apart from the fact that the Canegrate dwellers used to turn the urns upside down, the rites and rituals of cremation were almost the same both in Scamozzina and in Canegrate.
   

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Castello Sforzesco - Piazza Castello   20121 MILAN