Salvatore La Rosa




The studies on a period that is still full of questions and gray areas anyhow led the scholars, also thanks to some recent findings, to delineate the history of human presence in the Locrian territory before the arrival of the Greek settlers.

It was, therefore, possible to establish that the earliest human presence, traces of which it's still possible to observe at the present day, dates back to a period between 6000 b.C. and 5000 b.C., in the middle of the Neolithic age.

Following the evolution of the handworks brought little by little to light, it was possible to establish also that the first hypothesis, that wanted in this area the existence of sparse inhabited nuclei concentrated in a few areas, had to be revised as the diffusion on territory of the archaeological finds that were recovered is considered more compatible with the presence of a much higher number of settlements, although not all of a significant size.

The populations of these settlements were permanent, devoted to agriculture and organized in small and peaceful communities. Almost certainly an early form of trade was already in use between these small communities in the form of goods exchange; but proper commerce, made with populations of faraway lands, will begin only in late Eneolithic and during Bronze Age.

Chronological Table


Most likely these communities didn't undergo major changes in their way of living (except, of course, for the introduction of metal tools in their everyday life) and of interacting with other populations until the Bronze Age.

From the Bronze Age and then again at the beginning of the Iron Age there are, instead, a series of changes affecting both the economic and social aspects of the individual communities. Agriculture is combined with breeding and the necessity to obtain the metals for the production of the tools, required by the new needs of the populations of this period, leads to a strong development of commerce. These new demands led to southern Italy's shores many sailors, especially Mycenaean, who until the collapse of their civilization were frequent visitors of Calabria's landing places and maintained continuous exchanges with the native populations.

But who were these native populations? Where did they come from? What were the relationships between them? These are questions that most likely will never have a certain answer; and this is not due to the lack of ancient historical sources (although, of course, of several centuries later), on the contrary. Just think of what has been handed down by Antiochus, Ephorus, Thucydides, by Strabo himself and by many others; but unfortunately these stories often contradict with one another, are not easily interpretable and, for the most part, are shrouded in legend.

Without getting into the details of these traditions, we know with some certainty that the territory in which Locri Epizephyrii will develop was part of the so-called Italža region which, in its more restrictive delimitation, covered the land from the (nowadays) Strait of Messina to the isthmus delimited by Squillace (Skylletion/Scylletium) on the Ionian coast and Vibo Valentia (Hipponion) on the Tyrrhenian coast. The people who lived in this region, a population of Indo-European origin, took the name of Itali. Over the time, the tradition will tend to identify the Itali with the Oenotrians and to expand the borders of Italža by incorporating the adjacent Oenotria, thus coinciding almost entirely with the territories that later would be known as Magna Graecia.

These Itali-Oenotrians will be joined, between the late Bronze Age and the early Iron Age, by the Sicels; a population originating, according to some traditions, from the areas of the current Latium and northern Campania. Sicels who, however, in most cases will be driven from native populations and will be forced to seek refuge in the territories of eastern Sicily with just few exceptions such as in the case of the Locrian territory.

Here in fact the Sicels, by integrating or by crushing the local populations, established themselves and imported their traditions. And It is precisely regarding this population that the archaeological excavations carried out have produced the major archaeological data; data that have helped to identify the site of what was probably their largest settlement, located near the modern Janchina (just behind the area where the Greek city was built) dating back to the IX century b.C. Many other finds were also recovered from the excavations, carried out by archaeologist Paolo Orsi, in the burial areas (necropoleis of Canale and Patariti) adjoining the Janchina site and characterized by burial chamber dug along the hillside, typical of Sicels populations.

The Sicels will continue to thrive on the Locrian territory until the arrival of the Greek settlers; such arrival, as Polybius tells us in detail (see Geographical Position), marks their end and also marks the transition of the Locrian area from the last protohistoric phase to the proper History.



The definition "three-age system" (Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age) refers to a type of nomenclature traditionally used to divide chronologically the various stages of human evolution in the prehistoric period. This system, generally considered too restrictive to allow the precise description of the characteristics of regions and cultures between them distant, however is still used, especially in an archaeological context, for the immediacy with which it allows to contextualize chronologically facts and discoveries of prehistoric times.
Below are quickly highlighted the characteristics and composition of the individual periods (with dating, it should be noted, concerning the area of the central-western Mediterranean):


PALEOLITHIC: (age of the old stone, approximately from 2.5 million years ago until about 12.000 years ago) divided in its turn into three periods, Lower (up to 120.000 years ago), Middle (from 120.000 to 36.000 years ago) and Upper (from 36.000 to 12.000 years ago). It's marked by the presence of nomadic hunter-gatherers population that, gathered in small groups, settled for short periods in caves, huts and temporary shelters mostly along the banks of rivers and lakes. The period is characterized by the presence of stone tools and other handworks (especially flint and obsidian) made through the chipping technique.

MESOLITHIC: (age of the middle stone, approximately from 10.000 b.C. to 7000 b.C.) it's still characterized by the presence of nomadic hunter-gatherers population, however now gathered in larger groups. The techniques of stone processing tend to be more elaborate (microlithic technique) and, in hunting, there is an extensive use of bow and arrow.

NEOLITHIC:(age of the new stone, approximately from 7000 b.C. to 3000 b.C.) populations become sedentary, agriculture and the first domestication of animals are developed. Tools are built with increasingly complex work (sanding technique) and appear various types of pottery ware (such as the impressed ones called cardial by the name of the cardium edelis, an edible saltwater clam, used to decorate them).

ENEOLITHIC:(age of stone and copper, approximately from 3000 b.C. to 2000 b.C.) is the phase of transition from the stone age to the metals ones, it is characterized by the appearance of copper tools and handworks that complemented those in stone. It is often also referred as the initial period of the protohistory of the civilizations that develop from the communities affected by the changes of this phase.


Approximately the bronze age spans the period between the 2000 b.C. and the X-XI century b.C., it is the period in which it develops the bronze metallurgy resulting in the production of all kinds of handworks in the new metal. During this same period there was the diffusion of the pottery-wheel for the production of pottery wares and other manufactured articles and the development of farming and trading.


Approximately between the eleventh-tenth century. b.C. and the eighth century b.C., it is marked by the appearance of products made through the metallurgy of iron. During this period develop such social changes that this is considered the last protohistoric phase, the end of which marks the watershed between prehistory and history.




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