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Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology Collections

ARCHAEOLOGICAL COLLECTIONS

ETHNOLOGICAL COLLECTIONS

ROMAN LAPIDARY

ARCHAEOLOGICAL COLLECTIONS

 

The Civic Museum of Archaeology’s vast exposition is located in a single, imposing colonnaded hall.
The exhibit unfolds along a continuous path of nineteenth century display cabinets containing finds from the Palaeolithic Period to the Middle Ages. This arrangement takes visitors on a remarkable journey that allows them to follow the historical events of the city and the surrounding territory in chronological order, through the many examples of material culture.

Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Periods
Evidence of the earliest human presence in the territory of Modena is found in chipped stone tools dating back to the Middle Palaeolithic (a period ranging from 300,000 to 40,000 years ago) that were gathered on the surface of the hills south of the city. The famous statuette, known as “Venus of Savignano” (28,000-24,000 years ago), dates back to the Upper Palaeolithic, and is one of the first known examples of artistic production in Italy and Europe. On exhibit is a replica of the original, which is held at the L. Pigorini Museum in Rome.
Other lithic artefacts from the Apennines and their foothills are attributed to the Mesolithic period (11th-7th millennia B.C.).

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Neolithic Period
The earliest Neolithic artefacts in the territory of Modena belong to the Fiorano culture (5600-4800 B.C.): in addition to numerous ceramic finds, there are also bone implements and both chipped and polished stone tools, such as axes, chisels and large rings. One of the most thorough examples of the Square Mouthed Pottery Culture (5000-4200 B.C.) can be found at the Pescale site in Prignano. From the same site, which was continually occupied until the Bronze Age, come materials belonging to the Chassey culture (4300-4000 B.C.).
The burial of an adult individual in a shaft tomb, discovered in Formigine-Cave Gazzuoli, is ascribed to the Middle Neolithic.

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Copper Age
The earliest Copper Age pieces in Modena date back to the 4th-3rd millennia B.C. and come primarily from burial sites. The ceramics that accompany the burials belong to a culture known as “Spilamberto Group”. Other funerary evidence comes from Cumarola, Fiorano, Campegine and Savignano, while residential areas have been discovered in San Cesario and Spilamberto.

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Bronze Age: the Terramare
During the early Bronze Age (2300-1650 B.C.), the territory of Modena was sparsely inhabited. The most important evidence from the period is a hoard of 96 axes found near Savignano sul Panaro.
The first attestations of the particular type of settlement known by the name of Terramare dates back to the middle of the second millennium B.C. The settlements in question are villages surrounded by imposing earthworks and wide moats. Dwellings were often built on raised platforms supported by pilings. The Terramare society, one of the most advanced in Bronze Age Europe, was comprised of warriors, farmers, herders and craftsmen who were highly skilled in the production of bronze, ceramic, deer antler and bone implements, which are amply represented in the exhibited material. The inhabitants of the Terramare of Emilia buried their dead through ritual incineration in necropolises located a few hundred metres from the village, such as the one in Casinalbo, which counts roughly 700 burials.

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Iron Age
The core group of findings from the early Iron Age (9th-7th centuries B.C.) comes from the area between the Samoggia and Panaro rivers and mostly concerns material found in cremation necropolises possibly belonging to the Villanova culture, such as those of Savignano sul Panaro, Casinalbo, Castelfranco Emilia and Bazzano. At the end of the 7th century B.C., settlements were mostly located west of the Panaro, perhaps around a more sizeable centre with proto-urban features.

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Padanian Etruria
During the 6th century B.C. an organized political-economic system began to emerge. Felsina (Bologna) was most likely the administrative centre of this system, along with other urban centres, including Modena, in all likelihood. The presence of an Etruscan city at Modena has not yet been archaeologically documented, although the discovery in the area of Reggio Emilia of a bowl fragment bearing an inscription with the gentilitial MUTNA provided the first certain documentation of its existence. In the 5th century B.C. the territory of Modena appears to have been densely occupied by a series of agricultural settlements, but it is largely from necropolises and worship areas that the most significant evidence comes: from the rich tombs discovered in the 19th century at Galassina di Castelvetro to the bronze ex-votos found in sanctuaries in the Apennines.

Caption: Top of a bronze chandelier, detail. Necropolis of Galassina di Castelvetro. 5th century B.C.

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The Celts
Following the decline of Etruscan power, the territory of Modena was for a time militarily occupied by Celtic populations, after which the new arrivals gradually became integrated into the pre-existing Etruscan communities. The most significant evidence of the Celtic presence in Modena is related to funerary contexts, in particular that of Saliceta San Giuliano (3rd century B.C.).

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Roman Era
Initiated in the 3rd century B.C., the Romans’ plan to occupy the Po Valley was put into effect with the construction of the Via Aemilia in 187 B.C. Subdivided into plots based on Centuriation, the territory was covered in farms, rural buildings, villas and productive structures, such as furnaces, as evidenced by the numerous finds on exhibit. After several centuries of prosperity, starting around the middle of the 3rd century A.D., the territory of Modena began to feel the effects of the same crisis that was assailing the Roman Empire; thus began a long period of social and economic decadence and a gradual desertion of the countryside.

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Roman Modena
Objects from daily life and remains of monuments reconstruct an image of Mutina that are in keeping with Cicero’s description of it: “valiant and splendid”. The Roman city, preserved in the subsoil of the current city centre by several metres of alluvial sediment, has on multiple occasions revealed ruins of rich patrician mansions (such as the domus in Via Università) and of prestigious public buildings (such as the thermal baths, the tribunal, the amphitheatre), but also of the extensive necropolises that are located along the main roads into the city. From the necropolis of Via Emilia Est comes the marble bas-relief depicting the Niobids, a copy of the Greek original attributed to Fidia.

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Middle Ages
The materials collected in this section cover a period of time ranging from late antiquity to the Renaissance. Of particular note are several tombs - testaments to a Lombard presence in Modena - dug in the city and nearby towns, such as Fiorano and Montale.
The scale model of the Cathedral of Modena ideally concludes the archaeological section. The reuse of Roman era material for its construction makes it a symbol of continuity between the ancient and the modern city.

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ETHNOLOGICAL COLLECTIONS

The ethnological section, created between 1875 and the first decades of the 20th century, is composed of materials from various geographical regions that in many cases bear witness to cultures that have disappeared or are nearly extinct. The current organization of the collections respects the original 19th century subdivision by geographical area: New Guinea, Peru, South America, Africa and Asia.

New Guinea
Located in this room are materials of extraordinary craftsmanship that document aspects of the daily life of the populations of south-western New Guinea, collected by the ethnologist Lamberto Loria in 1889-90 during a research expedition that was among the first conducted in these areas: from bark cloth garments to ornaments of cassowary or bird of paradise feathers, from hunting, fishing and war weapons to drums and shields used in dances, to the refined carvings that decorate the boats.

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Pre-Columbian Peru
The collections, which are the result of excavations and research carried out at the end of the 19th (???) century in pre-Columbian necropolises in Peru, create a connection between the ethnological and archaeological aspects of the material culture, especially through the exhibition of pottery and a vast array of textiles. The latter in particular offer an eloquent example of the mastery achieved by Andean populations, who used cotton and alpaca or llama wool to produce items of clothing that characterized social status, membership in a determined ethnic group and the most important life stages: puberty, marriage and death.

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South America, Africa, Asia
This exhibit completes the ethnological section, through materials of strong visual impact and documentary importance: the splendid collection of Amazon feather ornaments produced by the Mundurucù and Indios of the upper Rio Negro basin; the samurai armour, a representative souvenir of 18th-19th century Japan; the prestigious central African iron weapons and a series of objects from the Horn of Africa that reflect Italian colonial involvement in the years immediately following the unification of Italy.

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Datasheets from the Catalogue of Cultural Heritage of Emilia-Romagna by the Institute for Artistic, Cultural and Natural Heritage of the Region of Emilia-Romagna

 

ROMAN LAPIDARY
The Roman section of the museum is enriched by the monuments of the Mutina necropolises, which began coming to light during the post World War II period, on display on the ground floor of the Palazzo dei Musei in the Roman Lapidary of the Civic Museums. The monuments come from discoveries made in areas beyond the perimeter of the Roman city that were occupied by monumental necropolises. Particularly relevant are the pieces related to the burial areas that extended along the Via Emilia east of the city, such as the monumental funerary altar of Vetilia Egloge, datable to the 1st century A.D. The altar (discovered in 2007), which is made of stacked blocks of calcareous stone that stand over four metres tall, is strikingly imposing.
From the same necropolis come several other pieces: the extraordinary frieze portraying sea monsters and a procession of divinities (mid-1st century A.D.) that was originally part of an aedicule monument; the altar of the centurion Clodio, with funerary enclosure; the fragment depicting the prow of a ship that possibly belonged to a fleet commander of the Augustan era; and the funerary stele of the tonsor Lucius Rubrius Stabilio and the cloth dyer Caius Purpurarius Nicephor.
The significance of the body of material on exhibit attests to the wealth achieved by Mutina, and through the messages passed on in epigraphs enriches our vast heritage of knowledge about the social fabric of the city.

The Roman Lapidary can be visited on any day that the Civic Museums are open, during normal operating hours, from 8:00 am to 7:30 pm. Entry is free of charge.

Caption: Funerary stele of Lucius Rubrius Stabilio Primus. Late 1st century B.C. – early 1st century A.D.

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