Bologna existed and had settlements since the third millennium BCE.
However, our story continues much much later than this. We are in the 10th and 9th century BCE. Starting from the 9th century BCE, Italy was inhabited by different tribes. In antiquity they are called the Etruscans, Venetics, Latins, Piceni, Umbrians and Sabines.
These tribes have been differentiated depending on the territory they inhabited, their language and their culture.
The Etruscan civilization developed around the areas located between the north (the Arno River) and in the south (the Tiber River).
The Etruscan civilization expanded to the regions of Emilia Romagna (Bologna and Verucchio), the Marches (Fermo) and in Salerno (Pontecagnano).
In Bologna, during the period from 900 BCE to 600 BCE we have evidence of a civilization which has been named the Villanovian civilization. The name comes from the first archaeological finds in the outskirts of Bologna, known today as Villanova. Villanova is near Castenaso.
The Villanovian civilization is characterized by individual incineration -based burials. These bi-conical vases contained the burnt remains of the defunct.
In Bologna, the main villages were built along the Savena River. This is evidenced by the burial grounds found in the San Vitale, Savena and the Fiera district. Further finds have been discovered around Villa Cassarini (which today houses the Univeristy’s Engineering Faculty).
During the first phase of the Villanovian period (9th century BCE) and the second Villanovian period (800- 750 BCE), the burials were characterised by the almost exclusive use of incineration rites. The tombs consisted of a small pit dug into the gound which was lined by small pebbles and sandstone slabs fixed to the ground.
However, it is during the third Villanovian period (750 – 680 BCE) were we have, not only tombs predominately of incinerated remains as previously, but the richer tombs are now lined or covered in pebbles. Wooden coffins have also been found. Two graves also had decorated stele engraved with a figurative decoration.
The fourth Villanovian period (680 – 575BCE) is characterised by the spreading of both burial and incineration rites. Burial tombs were simple holes dug in the ground with the dead probably placed in wooden coffins whereas the incineration tombs remained the same as previous periods. However, we do see the use of burial dolios (large terracotta vases containing the bones and the objects of the dead). The most important tombs were identified by sculptured signs on the ground.