Latial culture

Cinerary urn

The Latial culture ranged approximately over ancient Old Latium. The Iron Age Latial culture coincides with the arrival in the region of a people who spoke Old Latin. The culture is likely therefore to identify a phase of the socio-political self-consciousness of the Latin tribe, during the period of the kings of Alba Longa and the foundation of the Roman Kingdom.

The Latial is diagnosed by the hut-urn. Where cremation urns of the Villanovan culture are plain, biconical, and were buried in a deep shaft, the hut-urn is a round or square model of a hut with a peaked roof and a door leading to the interior of one side. Cremation was not an exclusive rite; it shared the funerary conventions with inhumation, with decreasing frequency as the period progressed; however, the artifact assemblage with which it is associated is distinctive. The hut-urns correspond to the huts in which the population for the most part lived, although during the period they developed the use of stone for temples and other public buildings.[1][2]

The Apennine culture of Latium transitioned smoothly into the Latial with no evidence of an intrusive population movement. The population generally abandoned sites of purely economic advantage in favor of defensible sites, the locations of future cities, about which they clustered; hence the term pre-urban. This population movement may indicate an increase in marauding.[3]


The periodization is standard and varies little; however, a tolerance of ±25 years is implied:[2][4][5]

Period Date BC Phase
Latial or LC (Latial Culture) I 1000-900 Pre-urban
LCIIA 900-830 Pre-urban
LCIIB 830-770 Proto-urban
LCIII 770-730 Proto-urban
LCIVA 730-630 Proto-urban
LCIVB 630-580 Archaic urban


Latial I[6] is concentrated in the Rome region, the Alban Hills and the Monti della Tolfa. Evidence is mainly funerary from necropoleis (cemeteries). Cremation was the predominant rite.[7] Cremation burials consist of a hut-urn with ashes of the deceased placed in a dolium (large jar) with some other vessels used for food offerings. Pottery is undecorated. Instead of a hut-urn a vase with a cone-like roof or simulated helmet may be used. The dolium was placed in a stone-lined pozzo (hole) and commemorated above-ground.

For grave goods, spindle-whorls identify females and miniature armor and weapons, males. Statuettes, some with hands outstretched, may be present.


  1. Cornell (1995), pp 48-51.
  2. 1 2 Gordon (2007), p. 46.
  3. Smith (1996), p. 34.
  4. Smith (1996), p. xii.
  5. Cornell (1995), p. 50.
  6. Smith (1996), pp. 37-43.
  7. Forsythe (2005), p. 54.


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