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THE LAND AND ITS LINGUISTIC DIVERSITY The past two hundred years of human history have witnessed continuous and rapid technological change and progress on an unparalleled scale. Yet despite the highly advanced nature of present-day technology, geographical and climatic factors still exercise a profound influence upon the regional economies and cultures of human populations worldwide. The presence or absence of mountains, desert, rich farmland, water, forests, petroleum, coal, and other mineral resources continue to shape modern societies and nations in many fundamental ways. It therefore should come as no surprise that an inverse relationship has long existed between human technology and geographical determinism: the less control people have over their physical surroundings, the greater is the impact that their physical environment has upon their existence and way of life. Consequently, much of human prehistory and history has been a struggle to develop a material culture that mitigates the effects of climate, environment, and geography. The prehistory of Italy was no exception to this general rule. The Italian peninsula, measuring 116,372 square miles (roughly the size of Nevada), exhibits great diversity of mountains, plain, and hill country, which frequently exist together in the same locale (see map 1). Situated in the middle of the Mediterranean, Italy consists of two distinct areas determined by the Alpine and Apennine mountain ranges. One of these two regions, the Po Valley of northern Italy, is roughly triangular in shape. It is bounded on the north by the Alps, on the south by the Apennines, and by the Adriatic Sea to the east. Since during the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. Celtic tribes (termed Gauls by the Romans) from continental Europe crossed the Alps and took up residence throughout the Po Valley, the ancient Romans called this region Cisalpine Gaul, meaning “Gaul on this Chapter 1 Italy in Prehistory 7 side of the Alps.” This plain is good for agriculture and is bisected by the Po River, the largest river of Italy, which flows west to east for 418 miles, receives the runoff from both mountain ranges in numerous streams, and empties into the Adriatic. Since the land nearest the Po was often marshy, the earliest human inhabitants of northern Italy tended to settle in areas away from 8 italy in prehistory Map 1. Physical map of Italy. FRANCE YUGOSLAVIA Sardinia Corsica Sicily Marseilles Milan A P E N N I N E S A L P S Po River PO VALLEY A D R I A TIC SEA SW ITZERLAND the river. Settlement of the mountain slopes and plain promoted the exchange of commodities peculiar to each environment. The arc of the Alps separates northern Italy from continental Europe. Yet despite their height, they never constituted an insuperable barrier to early man, but several passes were routinely used for travel to and from southern France to the west and the central Danube to the east. Although the Po Valley was the last area of Italy to succumb to Roman arms, its geographical ties to continental Europe played an important role in the prehistory and early history of Italy by its reception of new cultural influences and peoples beyond the Alps and transmission of new ideas across the Apennines. The other major area of Italy is the peninsula south of the Po Valley. This region is geographically very complex and diverse. The Apennine Mountains form a compact range along the southern side of the Po Valley, but after they turn southeastward to run the length of the peninsula, they diverge into parallel ranges separated from one another by deep gorges. This terrain was well suited for pastoralism. Herders kept their cattle, sheep, pigs, and goats down in the valleys to avoid the rigors of winter, but drove them into the uplands to enjoy the cooler pastures of summer. This pattern of seasonal pastoralism is termed transhumance. It originated at some time during Italy’s prehistoric period and continued to be practiced until modern times. In addition, mountain ridges and valleys formed important paths which facilitated the movement of people, goods, and ideas. For much of their southeasterly course the Apennines are much closer to the eastern coast of Italy and often run right down to the Adriatic. As a result, the northern and central areas of western Italy open up into a complex tangle of plain and hill country, which form the three major areas of Etruria, Latium, and Campania, all possessing a rich volcanic soil, enjoying a moderate annual rainfall...


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