Thursday, June 19, 2008

Romans In Brazil During The Second Third Century?

Romans In Brazil During The Second Third Century?


Ex-marine and underwater explorer, archaeologist, and treasure-hunter Robert Marx states rather flatly:

Amongst my most notable discover[ies] was that of a 2nd century BC Roman shipwreck in the Bay of Guanabara, near Rio de Janeiro. This is a discovery that has received little to no examination, much less validation, from the realm of mainstream archaeology, no doubt in part because Marx is not a Ph.D. archaeologist. Scouring the web for more information about this finding, I did find a reference to the discovery in an article from Dr. Elizabeth Lyding Will, an expert on Roman amphoras (clay vessels used to store and ship goods during the Roman era). Dr. Will apparently has a piece of an amphora recovered from Marx's Brazil discovery. Of it, she says:

The highly publicized amphoras Robert Marx found in the ship are in fact similar in shape to jars produced in kilns at Kouass, on the west coast of Morocco. The Rio jars look to be late versions of those jars, perhaps datable to the third century A.D. I have a large piece of one of the Rio jars, but no labs I have consulted have any clay similar in composition. So the edges of the earth for Rome, beyond India and Scotland and eastern Europe, remain shrouded in mystery. Information about this find is practically non existent. Gary Fretz's synopsis of the "whole story" suggests that the find has been suppressed by the Brazilian government:

At the time the amphorae were confirmed to be "Roman", the large Italian faction in Brazil were extremely excited about this news. The Italian ambassador to Brazil notified the Brazilian government that, since the Romans were the first to "discover" Brazil, then all Italian immigrants should be granted immediate citizenship. There are a large number of Italian immigrants in Brazil and the government has created a tedious and costly citizenship application procedure for Italians that does not apply to Portuguese immigrants.

The Brazilian government would not give in and the Italians in Brazil staged demonstrations. In response, the Brazilian government ordered all civilians off the recovery project and censored further news about the wreck hoping to diffuse the civil unrest. Finally, I've also seen mention of the following written works, which I've yet to dig up: Marx R.F., 1984 , Romans in Rio? [see Santarelli A. Mondo Sommerso 270 1983:252-3. Oceans, 17.4: 18-21.] The Romans in Rio book (?) is not among the works of Robert Marx as listed at Amazon.

The First Europeans to Reach the New World

By Gary Fretz

Q. With all of the new technology available today, we should be able to know precisely when the first European ships reached the New World. What is the latest news? It was a group of Vikings who made landfall around 900 A.D., right?

A. Wrong! It is now confirmed that a Roman ship reached Brazil around the year 19 B.C.! Here is the whole story …

Two thousand years ago, the most valuable commodity “known to man” was salt. This is because most fresh meats and fish were preserved by packing in salt. In fact, salt was so valuable, it was used in place of coinage. This is where the word “salary” emerged (as well as the expression “he’s not worth his salt”). The Romans had a large salt production facility on Ilha do Sal (Salt Island) in the Cape Verde Islands, which are 350 miles off the coast of West Africa. This location is directly in the path of the hot, dry winds of the Sahara Desert, which can easily blow 60 knots from the east.

It is believed that this Roman merchant vessel was heading for Salt Island to pick up a load of salt and to provision the local army garrison when a fierce Sahara storm started. Roman ships were clumsy by modem standards and would have no choice but to lower their sails and to run with the winds to avoid capsizing. The Sahara winds can blow for many days and the Salt Ship was carried to Guanabara Bay (near Rio de Janeiro) in Brazil.

In the middle of the - Bay is a large submerged rock lying 3’ below the surface called Xareu Rock (named after a local fish that congregates here). The ship appears to have been travelling at a high rate of speed when she struck the rock. She broke into two pieces and settled in 75’ of water near the base of the rock.

In the late 1970’s, a local fisherman using nets around Xareu Rock kept “catching” some large (3’ tall), heavy earthen jars which tore his nets. He mistakenly thought these were “macumba”jars, which are used in local voodoo ceremonies and then thrown into the sea. So, as the jars were hauled up, he smashed them with a hammer and threw the small pieces back into the water in an attempt to prevent tearing his nets in the future.

If he had only known what treasures he was destroying! In recent years, a scuba diver was spear fishing around Xareu Rock and found eight similar jars that he took home.
He sold six jars to tourists before the Brazilian police arrested him with the two remaining jars for illegally selling ancient artifacts. Archaeologists immediately identified these as Roman amphorae of the 1st century B.C These containers were originally used to carry water, grain, salted fish, meat, olives, olive oil and other foods necessary to feed the ship’s crew and to provision Roman outposts.

One of the world’s foremost authorities on Roman shipwrecks, Robert Marx, found more artifacts and confirmed this as an authentic Roman shipwreck. The world’s foremost authority on Roman amphorae analyzed the clay in the jars and confirmed that these were manufactured at Kouass which was a Roman seaport, 2000 years ago, on the coast of modem-day Morocco. The Institute of Archaeology of the University of London performed thermo luminescence testing (which is a more accurate dating process than Carbon 14 dating) and the date of the manufacture was determined to be around 19 B.C. Many more amphorae and some marble objects were recovered, as well as a Roman bronze fibula (a clasp device used to fasten a coat or shirt).

So, why haven't we heard more about this fantastic find? One would think this news would make headlines around the world… The short answer is “politics”. At the time the amphorae were confirmed to be "Roman", the large Italian faction in Brazil were extremely excited about this news.

The Italian ambassador to Brazil notified the Brazilian government that, since the Romans were the first to "discover" Brazil, then all Italian immigrants should be granted immediate citizenship. There are a large number of Italian immigrants in Brazil and the government has created a tedious and costly citizenship application procedure for Italians that does not apply to Portuguese immigrants. The Brazilian government would not give in and the Italians in Brazil staged demonstrations. In response, the Brazilian government ordered all civilians off the recovery project and censored further news about the wreck hoping to diffuse the civil unrest. The Brazilian Navy continues to excavate the wreck in secret.

We only know about it because of what Robert Marx learned before he was dismissed and what the University of London has leaked. This shipwreck may help explain some other intriguing Brazilian finds: - Several hundred ancient Roman silver and bronze coins were unearthed near Recife, Brazil. Did these once belong to the castaways of the Salt Ship?

- A tribe of white, mostly blonde haired, blue-eyed "Indians" has been found in a remote region of the Amazon jungle. Could these be the descendants of the shipwrecked sailors of the Xareu wreck? DNA analysis of these “Indians” will surely bring some interesting facts to light!

Romans In Brazil During The Second Third Century?

Tiny Roman Bust Shows Pre-Columbian Contact With Mexico

A Report by Andrew Collins

[Two photos are copyright of Romeo H. Hristov]

'Did Roman explorers discover America 1,300 years ahead of Christopher Columbus' was the headline on page 25 of the DAILY MAIL for Thursday, 10 February 2000. On the same day THE EXPRESS ran a story on page 28 under the banner `Oldest Latin in America: Bust may prove Romans got there first'.

Both stories sought to highlight claims being made in the new issue of the magazine NEW SCIENTIST concerning the recent realisation that a small ceramic head found in 1933 at a site in the Toluca Valley, 72 kilometres west of Mexico City, is in fact Roman in origin.(1) A dating process known as thermoluminescence, which determines the age of ceramics, has found that the tiny bust is approximately 1800 years old. How it might have reached Mexico is the big mystery. The implication, however, is that the head, which shows a full-bearded individual in typical Latin style, was introduced to the New World prior to the age of Columbus.

David Kelley, an archaeologist at Canada's University of Calgary stated that the bust was found 'sealed under three floors. It is as close to archaeological certainty as you can get'.(2)

Such statements led anthropologist Roman Hristow, formerly of the Southern Methodist University, to conclude that the bust is firm evidence of transatlantic contact between the Old and New World as early as AD 200.(3) Having become interested in the Roman piece, he managed to track it down to a museum in Mexico City, where it had remained since its discovery.

It was the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, Germany, who conducted the tests which determined the age of the bust. Afterwards art experts were more willing to accept that it was of Roman manufacture. Hristow who then checked original excavation reports and realised that the bust must have been buried at least nine years before the arrival in Mexico of Hernando Cortés in 1519.

Yet this realisation begs the real question of whether or not Roman explorers were making journeys to the Americas around AD 200.Betty Meggers, an anthropologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC, has stated that: `I see no reason why ancient contact is not possible'.(4) She herself has made an extensive study of the similarities between the prehistoric pottery of the Joman culture of Japan and the Valdivia culture of Ecuador. This she believes is evidence of transpacific contact with the Americas as early as 3000 BC.

In contrast, other archaeologists remain sceptical over the claims being made by scholars such as Hristow and Meggers. Andrew Selkirk, the editor of CURRENT ARCHAEOLOGY, is of the opinion that: `It is a big leap to claim that the Romans reached Mexico City when scientists are not certain whether they even reached the Canary Islands.

'You could imagine a ship being wrecked off Newfoundland and you could argue that it had been blown across the ocean, but to claim that a boat got as far as Mexico sounds a bit over the top'.

Indeed, Selkirk even went so far as to say: `It could have been dropped out of someone's pocket in the 1930s or [was] put there as a spoof. If you had three similar finds in three different places, then maybe that would be more credible'.(5)

On a slightly different tack, David Grove, an archaeologist with the University of Illinois, while accepting that the head is Roman, suggests that it could have been taken from a shipwreck during some later age. If this were so, it would remove any significance the bust might play in re-interpreting the history of Mexico.(6) He also points out that there is no significant evidence of the influence of Old World cultures on the development of Mesoamerican civilisations prior to the age of Columbus.(7)

Speaking in the wake of lingering rumours and stories of Roman wrecks awaiting investigation off the coasts of Central and South America, Simon Keay, a Roman expert at Southampton University, says that although evidence of Roman contact has been found as far east as India, there are no records of trading routes to the Americas.(8)

A Mystery of Two Heads

The idea of transoceanic contact between the ancient world and the Americas is a subject crucial to our understanding of how Plato came to write his account of an Atlantic island called Atlantis in around 350 BC. There is every reason to suppose that in order to construct the story he drew on vague maritime knowledge concerning what lay on the western Atlantic seaboard - information that most probably filtered into the Mediterranean world via Phoenicians from Spain and Carthaginian traders from North Africa.

Indeed, I feature the bust in the chapter of 'GATEWAY TO ATLANTIS' entitled `Shipwrecks and Sailors'. After highlighting the discovery of North African amphorae disgorged from possible Roman wrecks in the so-called Bay of Jars outside of Rio de Janeiro during the 1980s, I introduce the evidence for Roman contact with Mexico. I cite the fired clay bricks used to construct various classical Maya sites in the Yucatán peninsular, in particular the great city of Comalcalco. The walls of its great palace show a remarkable similarity to fired clay structures of the Roman world, while maker's marks have been said to resemble characters from a south-east Asian script. This is territory dealt with in extraordinary detail by British transoceanic expert David Eccott and American archaeologist Neil Steede.

I go on to cite the tiny sculpted Roman head highlighted in the NEW SCIENTIST article and in subsequent national news stories in British papers such as THE DAILY MAIL and THE EXPRESS. The ceramic piece came originally from a site named Calixtlahuaca, located some 72 kilometres west of Mexico City. It was excavated in 1933 by archaeologist José Garcia Payón of Mexico's National Museum. According to the reports, it was found, along with various grave goods, in a truncated pyramid structure dating to the twelfth century and belonging to the Toltec culture which thrived during this era. This would then imply that the Roman bust could have been in Mexico for up to 1,000 years, not simply nine or ten years as has been claimed by anthropologist Roman Hristow. Initially it was thought that this fascinating artefact, which takes the form of a terracotta vessel several centimetres in height, is the one pictured in several books on transoceanic contact with a bushy beard and conical cap, like the Phrygian caps worn by the classical gods Perseus and Mithras.(9)

Yet the Roman bust that appeared originally in the NEW SCIENTIST article, and subsequently in THE EXPRESS, was an entirely different one without a hat and with much sharper features. After some initial confusion it has now been established that this picture had nothing whatsoever to do with the Calixtlahuaca head, and was used simply, and rather sloppily, to illustrate the news story.(10)

American Odyssey

So how might this priceless Roman artefact have come to be in Mexico in the first place? Austrian orientalist and anthropologist Dr Robert Heine-Geldern, a believer in transpacific contact in pre-Columbian times, was of the opinion in an article published in 1961 that the bust - which he describes as wearing a `Pylos', a knitted cap favoured among sailors from the Greek seaport of Pylos - had come across originally from Indo-China, where Roman artefacts have occasional been found.(11) In his view, it reached India via trade links with the Roman Empire, and then had been traded on to Indo-Chinese cultures in Southeast Asia who were themselves making transoceanic journeys during this age.(12) It was in this way that the head had reached Mexico, and not through direct Roman contact with the Americas.

I have no objection to the view that Roman explorers, or indeed traders, might have made transpacific journeys to Mexico as early as AD 200. However, we must also not ignore the clear evidence for transatlantic contact by Romans during this same epoch. We have the evidence of the amphorae and possible wrecks (yes, wrecks in plural) awaiting investigation off the coast of Brazil. There is another Roman wreck lying off the coast of Honduras in Central America. As early as 1976 it was disgorging amphorae which have been determined to be of Punic, i.e. North African, origin (See 'GATEWAY TO ATLANTIS').

There is also the case of the Roman coin hoard found washed up in a jar on a beach in north-east Venezuela. The age of the coins span an immensely-long period that stretches between the reign of Caesar Augustus (63 BC-AD 14) and a date of around AD 350. Since the hoard includes many duplicates, there seems very little likelihood that it could have been a discarded or buried collection of colonial origin, or that it might have been part of a national treasure trove on its way either to or from the New World. What seems more likely is that it is the wealth of a Roman trader lost overboard when his ship was wrecked sometime around AD 350. Remember, a vessel that follows the North Equatorial Current westwards from the Cape Verdes will be carried directly to the northern coast of Venezuela, almost precisely where the hoard was found. The coins are now in the possession of the Smithsonian Institution.(13)

In addition to this evidence there are numerous examples of Roman amphorae and coins having been found in New England, indicating that Roman vessels were also using the so-called Northwest Passage to reach North America via the Faeroes, Iceland, Greenland, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

Lastly, the sheer fact that Dr Heine-Geldern cites the fact that the Calixtlahuaca head sports a cap found among the sailors of Pylos hints at a possible maritime connection between this object and its arrival in Mexico. Pylos, by the way, was a town of Messenia, located on the western coast of the Peloponnesus, opposite the island of Sphacteria in the Ionian Sea.

So when considering the possibility of Roman contact across the Pacific, one should also not forget the Atlantic trade routes that were inherited by the Romans most probably from the Berbers and Taureg peoples of North Africa after the fall of Carthage in 147 BC.

With respect to Simon Keay's statement in the DAILY MAIL to the effect that there is no evidence of trade routes to the Americas I need only to cite the words of Statius Sebosus, a Roman geographer quoted in the works of Caius Solinus and Pliny the Elder. He recorded that the islands of the Hesperides lay 40 days' sail beyond the Gorgades. Since it can be adequately demonstrated that the Gorgades, or the islands of the Gorgons, were the Cape Verde islands, located off the coast of Senegal in West Africa, and the Hesperides were located in the Far West, there is every reason to believe that Sebosus was alluding to a transatlantic journey time between Africa and the West Indies. The Hesperides were certainly taken to be the West Indies by Spanish explorers and chroniclers shortly after the discovery of the New World, and there is every reason to believe that they got it right.

Solinus and Pliny would seem to have preserved a knowledge of transatlantic contact either prior to or contemporary with Sebosus' lifetime (he is thought to have lived in c. 100 BC). If so, then who exactly was making these journeys? Was it the Romans, or could Sebosus have been recalling much earlier journeys made to and from the West Indies by Iberic Phoenicians and Carthaginians?

With respect to the statement made by David Grove of the University of Illinois to the effect that although the Calixtlahuaca bust is Roman it could have come from a Roman shipwreck, I can say only this. If it did come from a shipwreck then it is yet further evidence that Roman vessels reached as far as Mexico. However, I feel it is far more likely that goods for trade were brought to the American mainland by Roman explorers in the time period of its manufacture. I cannot accept that the Roman head was introduced to the site during excavations in the 1930s, or that it is part of some kind of elaborate hoax.

What seems most important is that some scholars are now openly accepting that an item of Roman manufacture has been found through professional excavations at an archaeological site of Mesoamerican origin that predates the time of the conquest. This is an incredible revelation and one which is as significant as the announcement in the 1960s that evidence of Viking occupation had been found at a site named l'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland. Previous to this time scholars have always considered that Roman artifacts found in the Americas were either dropped accidentally or planted deliberately in colonial times.

This news also helps strengthen my own theories regarding the manner in which Plato appears to have constructed his Atlantis story from maritime lore reaching the Mediterranean world via Iberic-Phoenician and Carthaginian traders. They, it seems, were making journeys in secret to the West Indies, which were known in Roman times as the Hesperides (after Sebosus and others), as well as the islands left above sea-level following the break up of the Atlantean landmass (after Marcellus and Proclus). I suggest that readers examine 'GATEWAY TO ATLANTIS' for a more detailed account of the evidence for transatlantic journeys to the Americas in ancient times.

Notes and References

1. Knight, Jonathan, `Did Roman sailors shakes hands with ancient Mexicans', New Scientist, 12 February 2000, p. 7, cf. Ancient Mesoamerica, vol. 10, p. 207.

2. Ingham, `Oldest Latin in America', The Express, 10 February 2000, p. 28.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.; Derbyshire, `Did Roman explorers discover America 1,300 years ahead of Christopher Columbus?', Daily Mail, 10 February 2000, p. 25.

8. Derbyshire.

9. For instance, it appears in Eccott, 'Before Columbus (the Calixtlahuaca Roman head), Quest for Knowledge, Vol. 1, No. 5, Autumn 1997, pp. 18-9; Gordon, Before Columbus, p. 69, and Thompson, American Discovery, p. 174 (cf. photograph in Carter, George F., Man and the Land; A Cultural Geography, 2nd ed., Holt, Reinhart and Winston, New York, 1968).

10. Visit Huston MacCulloch's site which includes an account of the finding of the Roman Head. This can be found at

11. Heine-Geldern, 'Ein Römischer Fund aus dem Vorkolumbischen Mexiko', Anzeiger der Osterreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, No. 16, 1961, pp. 117-9. He pointed out that: 'In the years after the war, Louis Malleret investigated, in the coastal plain of the Mekong delta, the remains of a big city [Oceo, south of modern Saigon] of the second to seventh century which was connected to the sea by a canal and was doubtless one of the main trading places of the kingdom of Funan, one of the oldest colonial areas of southeast Asia … Along with numerous Indian, Persian and Chinese objects, a number of Roman imported pieces were found such as sculpted and cut stones and a golden medal with the head of the Roman Emperor Antonius Pius which, according to the inscription, is dated to the fifteenth year of his reign: therefore AD 152. Another gold medal which, although carries no inscription, seems to represent the Emperor Marcus Aurelius.', Eccott, pp. 18-19, quoting Heine-Geldern. Translation by Peter Boakes.

12. Heine-Geldern. David Eccott suggests I point out also that Han dynasty records in the year corresponding to A.D. 166 emissaries of "An-Tun" (obviously Marcus Aurelius Antoninus - who was the Roman Emperor at that time) arrived at Huan Ti. Heine Heine-Geldern states that these emissaries were probably merchant ambassadors and mariners who had struck out across the Indian ocean.

13. Irwin, Fair Gods and Stone Faces, p. 258.


Derbyshire, David, `Did Roman explorers discover America 1,300 years ahead of Christopher Columbus?', Daily Mail, 10 February 2000, p. 25.

Eccott, David, `Before Columbus (the Calixtlahuaca Roman head), Quest for Knowledge, Vol. 1, No. 5, Autumn 1997, pp. 18-9.

Gordon, Cyrus, Before Columbus, 1971, Turnstone, London, 1972.

Thompson, Gunnar, American Discovery, Argonauts Misty-Isles Press, Seattle, Washington, 1994.

Heine-Geldern, Robert, `Ein römischer Fund aus dem vorkolumbischen Mexiko', Anzeiger der Osterreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, No. 16, 1961, pp. 117-9

Ingham, John, `Oldest Latin in America', The Express, 10 February 2000, p. 28.

Irwin, Constance, Fair Gods and Stone Faces: Ancient Seafarers and the New World's Most Intriguing Riddle, 1963, W. H. Allen, London, 1964

Knight, Jonathan, `Did Roman sailors shakes hands with ancient Mexicans', New Scientist, 12 February 2000, p. 7, cf. Ancient Mesoamerica, vol. 10, p. 207

Tiny Roman Bust Shows Pre-Columbian Contact With Mexico

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Reflections on the Etruscan Civilization

Reflections on the Etruscan Civilization

By Graziano Baccolini

I can never succeed in understanding why Italians still fail to recognize the enormous contribution that the Etruscan civilization has made to our Western civilization. We keep on believing the teaching that the Greeks and above all the Romans are the peoples to whom the Western world owes its origins. All of this is considerably exaggerated and based on historical falsehoods. However, I have ascertained instead that it is the Etruscans, coming from the East, who are the true founders of our European culture, for both good and bad aspects. This truth continues to be understated and at times hindered by various Italian historians while it has been being recognized for numerous decades by the majority of the historians of the whole world. Etruscology is now a subject of enormous interest all over the world and a lot of falsehoods and commonly held beliefs are crumbling because they were used to discredit a people for appropriating of their worths. In the past centuries first the powerful and unculturated Rome has falsified its own origins and has ignored the legacy of the defeated Etruscan civilization, then the first Christian emperors have completed the work with their edicts. Subsequently on the ruins of the empire, the Pontifices of the new religion appropriated many ancient insignias of the Orient handed down to the Romans from Etruscan leaders and priests. For example the purple of the Lucumones became the colour of the cardinal, the Etruscan priest's Littus became the Pastoral one of the Bishops. The solemn ceremonies of the new religion are a reproduction of the Etruscan religious ceremonies. The ancient former Etruscan cities became the first Episcopal centers (Volterra, Vulci, Orvieto, etc).

The longest existing Etruscan text is a calendar containing 12 columns with the religious instructions for every day. Also the figurative Christian patrimony retraces the images found again in the Etruscan tombs. The winged figures of the Etruscans return in the Christian figures of the angels and Satan. On top of the ancient Etruscan temples has been built the new churches which very probably still conceal in many things their walls. It is strange that Etruscologists have not considered this yet. Then first Rome, then above all the priestly heirarchy of the new Roman religion snatched the symbols of the Etruscan civilization but denied the so-called pagan origin of it all. As always happens rather in the history and in the life, slandering the legitimate owners and accusing them of various inequities. Unfortunately our culture has inherited the worse of the Etruscan religion as for example, the concept of infallibility, seconded by the Christian religion.

However as also happens at times in life, the truth is reborn. From accumulated evidence, one succeeds in gathering that the truth is quite different. The great civilizing inheritance of the Etruscans was for centuries abandoned, earths once rich with produce became uncultivated, shops of artisans and artists became empty, their advanced knowledge of metallurgy and of hydraulics was forgotten and Etruscan creative individuality was oppressed, fortunately not entirely. After centuries of cultural regression (I probabably suspect due to the new religious Imperium) of hiding and of destruction of the sources of the Etruscan civilization there came the rebirth. In the ancient suburbs of the Appennines there remained the descendants of the Etruscans and the wonder contained in the tombs of their ancestors woke up again their native genome: the central part of the ancient world earth of the Etruscans, Tuscany, became the cradle of the Humanism and of the Renaissance. In these cities, Etruscans for long generations, characters such as Dante, Leonardo, Brunelleschi, Giotto, Bernini, Michelangelo etc were born, and above all so many unknown artisans and artists to which the growth of our Western civilization is owed.

Rereading these reflections I now understand, and perhaps you will also understand yourselves, because many Italian historians are reluctant to recognize these truths.

G. Baccolini Università di Bologna , Italy April 2001

See also a summary of my researches about the Sacred Etruscan Mount of Montovolo:


My Opinion about the Origin of Etruscan Civilization

By Graziano Baccolini

Now, I wish to report my opinion about the origin of the Etruscan culture. This opinion, or new theory, is matured during my studies which have permitted to me to individualise, in the site of Montovolo, a probable Oracular Centre or Navel of the Etruscan world, hierto unknown to historians. In addition, this research has allowed to discover that the archaic symbols, till now underestimated, of the Oval Stone and of the Cross were fundamental symbols even in the Etruscan religion. I think that these new data will bring new light to the studies on the Etruscans and consistence to my hypothesis on their cultural origin.

Firstly, I think the mystery of this people is due, above all, to the fact that their literary sources, the writings of their contemporaries, as the Etruscan history in 20 volumes by emperor Tiberius Claudius, and their religious symbols were deliberately destroyed in the first centuries of Christianity to cancel, probably, something of very important for the survival of the "new" religion. The documents that show this destruction, as for example the edicts of Teodosio (391-392 d.c), exist, but till now many historians say, with euphemistic expression, that "unfortunately there are no traces of Etruscan literature or of historical accounts or they are disappeared !"

Therefore, when we speak about Etruscans we use the term of "mysterious people" whose origins are still an object of debate for many scholars and writers .On the other hand, surprisingly, many Etruscologists think it is irrelevant knowledge!

Nowadays, there are three different hypotheses that are presented in opposition among them. There is the hypothesis of the oriental origin firstly formulated by Herodotus and supported also by many other important ancient authors. Now, this theory is accepted by many non–italian historians . In opposition, there is the hypothesis, exposed firstly by Livio, of a northern origin whose the Reti and other populations like the Veneti could be the descendants. Now, this hypothesis is practically abandoned by the contemporary historians. Then the theory of autochthonous origin formulated firstly by Dionysius of Halicarnassus, the unique dissenting voice among the ancients, probably for ideological reason and about four centuries later Herodotus. This theory was in part reformulated1 by Massimo Pallottino in 1942. He wished to turn away from the question of the "origin" and instead discussed the "formative process of the Etruscan which can only take place on the territory of Etruria itself . "The mark received by earl, fresh , primitive, flexible soul of oldest Etruscan, influenced by great overseas cultures, was as great as to definitively draw spiritual trends and the structure of the nation".

I think that this Italian formative process postpones the problem of the pregnant "origin" of their culture that certainly cannot be formed in Etruria with only some commercial contacts with the east or with small groups of immigrants from east arrived in "remote pre-historic times". Besides, knowing when this theory was enunciated by the Pallottino, published in 1942 by Hoepli in an editorial collection dedicated to Mussolini, we may suppose some ideological motivations to choose this hypothesis to "underline glories and priority of ancient Italian civilization"2. Successively he become the founder of a "School" and his numerous assistants defended and defend still now his hypothesis which is the most followed by italian hystorians. However, reading a recent book of M. Torelli3, a hystorian of Pallottino’s School, I have found that Pallottino theory is evolving towards the orientalist theory. In fact Torelli say that probably "the arrive of omogeneous groups of not-numerous people with the same advanced cultural knowledge and the same language might have influenced the indigenous populations". But for Torelli this possible arrival is an "hystorical marginal fact".

Personally, I think that the above theories may be, more or less, corrected only if they are considered as a whole. In other words, the populations that have had a fundamental role for the Etruscan culture have been people with oriental origins and permeated of Anatholian and Mesopothamian culture. During the Bronze Age and for several centuries they arrived in Italy firstly from the North, probably going up the Danubio and subsequently the Po and the Reno (at that time called Spinete) crossing first the Adriatic sea, therefore subsequently more easily from the Tyrrhenian sea crossing the oriental Mediterraneum sea. Obviously their culture is further matured in that rich zone of Italy, to south of the Po subsequently called Etruria. If it is so, it is not justified to define indigenous this culture but its pregnant origin is oriental. In addition, I think that when we speak of the origin of the Etruschans it is more correct to speak of the origin of their advanced culture in contrast with the primitive culture of other italic peoples. On the other hand there is no evidence of a strong immigration as was happened for the Greeks in the South of Italy, but, probably, there will have been a gradual and constant migration of small groups of persons with very similar culture and probably all of anatholian -mesopothamian origin. Below I will propose the motivations and the circumstances of these small migrations.

Probably, these migrations beginned just at the end of the Bronze Age when there are very few indigenous inhabitants in Italy. However, the advanced knowledge of this immigrants in all the fields allowed them to become the dominant group. After some centuries at the beginning of the Iron Age this new culture was called Villanovians and it occupied part of the Padana lowland and of the Centre of Italy. Subsequently, with new and more substantial migrations of other peoples from the same oriental place and with similar language and arriving from south by sea, this culture defined Villanovian was transformed in that more evolved civilization so-called Etruscan. Then, the Villanovians already mark the beginning of Etruscan culture, as proved by the overlap of Villanovian area with the later extent of Etruscan inhabitation in the historical period.

In a simple manner, I think that, the development of the Etruscan nation and culture may be compared to the growth of our contemporary American nation and culture that all people know without doubts. The continuous arrival of European immigrants and the wealth of the place has allowed the American nation to become, after some centuries from the first European immigrants, a new cultural center and a new economic power. But now nobody would risk to define autochhonous our contemporary American culture neither that its formative process is occurred only on the American soul but everybody would recognise that its fundamental origin, also cultural, is European, even if, after some centuries, a difference will be noticed between Europeans and Americans that now already exists.

The Anatolian-Mesopotamian cultural origin of the Etruschans are confirmed by numerous series of advanced knowledges in different fields as metallurgical, hydraulic, building, artistic, religious ones and some affinities as the art of the divination, the jewellery and attire, the refined taste etc. For this when we visit an Etruscan museum it seems to us to be in a museum of oriental cultures. Their opulence and their refined taste in the choice of the joys of life had to be in contrast with the one of surrounding Italian peoples, but also with their contemporary Greeks that conducted a most modest standard of life. The structural resemblances between the Etruscan and Lemnian languages is in favour to an origin from Aegean-Anatolian area around 1000 B.C. Also the fundamental role that had the female figure in Etruscan culture connects them to archaic oriental matriarchal civilizations where the Big Goddess was venerated. This element differentiated them from other contemporary cultures where the male figure had supplanted that female relegating the woman to a subordinate role that only in our last century has regained its role. Remember to us that even Plato, in the Timeo, considered the woman a sub-human being, and this reveals what deep differences there were between Greek culture and the Etruscan one even if the Greeks have been also influenced, by the oriental Aegean culture.

In addition, as reported in my articles4 and web pages4, after the discovery of a probable Etruscan Oracular Centre on the top of the mountain of Montovolo, analysing several facts such as symbols, legends and toponimous, I have found unequivocal connections between this mountain and the Etruscan city of Marzabotto. These findings have permitted to me to realize that the Oval stones, set on Marzabotto’s Tombs as well as in other Etruscan Necropolises, were a very important religious symbol even for Etruscans. This symbol of the Oval stone, is another affinity with archaic oriental cultures. It should be noted that today these stones are considered by Etruscologists only simple cippi or Tomb signals! The other symbols found at Montovolo as a cross inscribed in a circle, a snake and two doves are often found in other ancient Oracular Centers as Delphi, Delos, Milethos, Metsamor, Tebe as well as many other oriental centres. These symbolism make evident the oriental origin of the Etruscans because such archaic symbols cannot be accepted by simple commercial exchanges. The Cross, often inscribed in a circle, that I have found at Montovolo and at Marzabotto like in a lot of other Etruscan findings is also a Villanovian symbol up to now underestimated and defined by many historians a simple ornamental motive. The equilateral cross was already used in ancient Sumerian carvings as indication of the Divinity. A so deep rootedness of these religious symbols in a whole people presupposes a distant origins in the time. The Oval stone can also bring back us to the Pelasgian myth of Eurinome that gave birth to the Primordial Egg after she was fertilized by Ofione, the snake, that immediately rolled up himself on the egg staying motionless up to when it was opened making go out the wonder of the universe.

Images of Oval stones with a snake rolled up are also depicted on mural frescos in Pompei, notoriously of Etruscan origin.

It is interesting to note that also now the Moslem pilgrim entering in the Ka’bha shrine, in Mecca, kisses the sacred Black stone which is of an oval shape about seven inches in diameter.

Now, it remains to explain the most important question! How and why these oriental immigrants with probable same culture, came continually in Etruria, forming after several centuries a rich and homogeneous people in a new earth? We know that the first European immigrants that reached America, finding in that place a rich country informed their European compatriots that they can also reach this rich earth. It is very probable that even, in archaic ages, there was a constant connection between several Sacred Centres of different and very distant regions. As I have explained in my preceding studies, such connection was possible using traveller pigeons that owed to be replaced, at least every one or two years, by others pigeons deriving from the interested regions. (See my page regarding the use of traveller pigeons5) . This periodically transport and reintegration of the pigeons had to be done by caravans and secretly. This necessity became the origin of the constant arrival of new groups of persons that were settled in that new rich region that will become the Etruria. Probably this easy and necessary connection between ancient Sacred Centres might give interesting explanations of others so- called ancient mysteries or mythological events.

Finally, after the reading of Giovanni Semerano’s books6, I have found a farther confirmation of the oriental origin of the Etruschan culture. In fact, after sixty years of studies this 90 years old philologist, Member of the Oriental Institute of Chicago, has demonstrated the Accadian and Sumerian origin of the Etruscan language and therefore also of the Latin and European languages. In such a way the theory of the Indo-European origin becomes a mere fable. His theories had been snubbed for years by the Italian Academy that had always ignored his contributions until just recently, when his book "The Origins of European Culture" was greeted with great interest by the philosophers Massimo Cacciari, Emanuele Severino and Umberto Galimberti. But many other academic historians ignores his discovery, because this is in great contrast with their acclaimed axiomatic theories.


1) Massimo Pallottino Etruscologia Hoepli, 2003, 110

2) See the article of Sergio Frau, Etruschi, cosi il fascismo ne cancellò le origini La Repubblica. maggio 2001 and also reported on the web:

3) Mario Torelli, Storia degli Etruschi, Ed Laterza, 28, 2001.

4)Graziano Baccolini, Hera,16,61, 2001; Hera 41,76,2003 . This research is also reported on the web :

5) Regarding the use of traveller pigeons see my web page:

5) Luciano De Cresenzo, I Grandi Miti Greci, Oscar Mondadori, 2003 pag. 247-8

6) Giovanni Semerano, L’infinito: un equivoco millenario, ed. Mondadori, 2001., Giovanni Semerano, Il popolo che sconfisse la morte ed Mondadori, 2003.

- Giovanni Semerano had to wait 90 years before receiving his first institutional acknowledgement for his important discoveries concerning ancient languages, in particular, the Etruscan language. In fact in Florence, July 2001, Semerano received the "Silver Plaque" by the Tuscany Regional assembly that the president Riccardo Nencini attributed to him for his hypothesis on the "mother of all languages" which for Semerano is the Acadian-Sumerian.

G. Baccolini Università di Bologna , Italy, September 2003


Reflections on the Etruscan Civilization

The Mysterious Etruscans

Etruscan Civilization [Wikipedia]

Etruscan Foundation

Although most people just assume that ancient Greece led directly to the ascendancy of Rome and ultimately to the foundations of Western Civilization, the Etruscan culture actually predates what was considered the timeline for Ancient Greece. It was latter influenced by "Magna Graecia" (Southern Italian Greek Culture), but I tend to agree with Mr. Baccolini.

Also, we use the flag of the Lombard Kingdom as the symbol of our culture (Etruscan-Italic-Celtic-Lombard) because they administered basically "Northern Italy" and had a flag to represent it. However, while our flag is Lombard, our soul is Etruscan. By "Etruscan," I mean Etruscan and other early Italic tribes from Rome northward (Volsci, Venets, Ligurians, Camunni, etc.).

If I've said it once, I've said it a million times. There's so much to study yet. I think this article, however, is a big step in understanding our origin.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

San Pedro, Los Angeles, California

Selected Text From Wikipedia:

San Pedro is a beach community within Los Angeles, California, USA. It was annexed in 1909 and is a major seaport of the area. The town has grown from being dominated by the fishing industry to become primarily a working class town within the City of Los Angeles. The name of the town is pronounced "San Pidro" by its residents, even its Hispanic residents, rather than by its Spanish pronunciation.


The site, at the southern end of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, on the west side of San Pedro Bay, was used by Spanish ships starting in the 1540s.

Origin of name

San Pedro was named after St. Peter of Alexandria, a 4th century bishop in Alexandria, Egypt. His feast day is November 24 on the local ecclesiastical calendar of Spain, the day on which Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo discovered the bay in 1542 which would become "San Pedro." Santa Catalina Island, named after St. Katherine of Alexandria, was also claimed for the Spanish Empire the next day, on her feast day, November 25th. In 1602-1603, Sebastián Vizcaíno (1548-1624) officially surveyed and mapped the California coastline, including San Pedro Bay, for New Spain.


Regular settlement began in 1769 as part of the effort to populate California, although trade restrictions encouraged more smuggling than regular business. The Rancho San Pedro is the site of the first Spanish land grant in Alta California, New Spain. The land was granted in 1784 by King Carlos III to Juan Jose Dominguez, a retired Spanish soldier who came to California with the Gaspar de Portolà expedition.

When New Spain won its independence from the Spanish Empire and Alta California became part of Mexico, the trade restrictions were lifted, and the town flourished. Under United States control after 1848, when the United States defeated Mexico in the Mexican-American war, the harbor was greatly improved and expanded under the guidance of Phineas Banning. San Pedro became a major port of the West Coast and is now the busiest port in the country.

In 1888, the War Department took control of a tract of land next to the bay and added to it in 1897 and 1910. This became Fort MacArthur in 1914 and was a coastal defense site for many years. Many other facilities were established in the San Pedro area, and it was a popular port of call for U.S. Navy ships, especially during World War II. The town became a well known watering hole for sailors and Marines during leave and established a reputation as a rough-and-tumble town.

Los Angeles Annexation

In 1906, the City of Los Angeles annexed a long narrow strip of land connecting the city to the coast, and in 1909, the city annexed San Pedro and the adjacent town of Wilmington. The odd shape is still seen in the map of the city.

Port of Los Angeles

San Pedro, Wilmington, and Terminal Island are the locations of the Port of Los Angeles.

Demographic history

Ethnically diverse, San Pedro was a magnet for European immigrants from various countries for years, reflected in the number of restaurants representing diverse cuisines, especially Croatian, Portuguese, Mexican, Italian, and Greek. San Pedro is home to the largest Italian-American community in Southern California, centered on the "Via Italia" (South Cabrillo Avenue). Estimates state that the community numbers about 45,000 Italian-Americans. San Pedro is also considered the heart of the Croatian community in Los Angeles. This community, originally comprised of seafarers and fishermen from the Dalmatia (especially the islands of Brač, Hvar, Vis and Korčula) region, has been present in San Pedro since the settlement began more than 200 years ago. The City of Los Angeles even named a stretch of 9th Street "Croatian Place" in honor of the city's old Croatian community. There are reportedly more than 35,000 Croats in San Pedro, making it the biggest Croatian community on the Pacific.

A large portion of San Pedro is also composed of Mexican-Americans with long-time roots in the community, Mexican and other Hispanic immigrants, and African-Americans. Much of their populations are based in the older, east side of the community surrounding the downtown area and bordering the Port of Los Angeles.

Until February 1942, San Pedro was home to a vibrant Japanese immigrant community of about 3,000 people who lived in what had been described as a" typical Japanese Fishing Village" on Terminal Island (East San Pedro).

These Japanese immigrants pioneered albacore fishing out of San Pedro Bay and harvesting abalone off of White Point,thus leading the way in establishing a viable fishing industry in San Pedro.

The 48-hour forced expulsion of these San Pedro residents and the razing of their homes and shops, as part of the Japanese-American internment during World War II, is described in Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston's memoir Farewell to Manzanar.

Ethnicity & race

(Population 72,146) The racial make up of San Pedro according to the 2000 U.S. Census data is 63.02% Caucasian (Croatian, Italian, Hispanic-Whites, Middle Eastern) 18.45% Black, 1.02% American Indian and Alaska Native alone, 4.78% Asian, 0.40% Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone, 18.02% some other race, and 6.30% two or more races. Separate from those statistics, 12.14% of "Caucasians" identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino, and 20.41% as "Caucasian" alone, not Hispanic or Latino.

Wikipedia: San Pedro [with more information & links]


One local wrote: "People are not ashamed to admit Pedro is a blue-collar town. Its roots run deep in the longshoring and fishing industry."

I have never visited San Pedro, but it sounds like it's situated in a very interesting location. I would recommend finding some of the very interesting images online of this Port of Los Angeles neighborhood. I wasn't able to find all the ones I had before, at the time of this entry. It's like an old downtown, coastal port district, with charming old houses from another era.

He also wrote: "San Pedro is home to the largest Italian-American community in Southern California. Most Italian residents are from Ischia or Sicily" (in descent).

Having heard of the Italian-American community there, and being in California, I had always just assumed that it was primarily Ligurian/Tuscan. However, it appears that it was basically Sicilians and Southern Italians who migrated to some small parts of Los Angeles, and also to the "Little Italy" in San Diego. I'm not sure about Fresno.


San Pedro Bay Historical Society

The Homes of San Pedro

The link "The Homes of San Pedro" gives some further idea of the flavor of the district I think. I would like to visit there sometime. I wish I had more time to delve into this deeper. It's very interesting. I'm not really sure how much we have in common with San Pedro. It sounds somewhat like North Beach's history. The Genoese fisherman, who later were replaced by the Sicilian fisherman. Also, the canneries, the longshoreman, etc. Come to think of it, it also seems similar to Monterey, California.

Lastly, I almost forgot, there was a book written about San Pedro entitled 'Yugoslavs and Italians in San Pedro: Political culture and civic involvement' [Nicholas P. Lovrich; 1977]. I recall hearing about this book before I was even aware of San Pedro. Before there was an internet. It appears that this is a hard book to get. If anyone has read this, please give a short review if possible. I'm a little bit all over the place with this entry, because there is so much to learn and so many connections that I feel I'm not doing some of these subjects justice! I keep saying that I will get back to them, but so far I haven't. Lets keep gathering information.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Italian American Education Bill

[From the Sacramento Italian Cultural Society March/April 2008 newsletter]:

Did you know Italian Americans are not mentioned in the history books? That’s right; the history books used in California schools from the kindergarten through the University level do not mention us. Not even a footnote. Yet, the other large European groups are covered and many of the smaller non-European groups receive extensive coverage. This is not fair to Italian Americans. Italian Americans have earned a place in American history. Italian Americans are the fourth largest European group in America and the sixth largest ethnic group - some 25 million strong, yet the other three larger European groups – the Germans, Irish and English are included in the history lesson given to California students. Italian Americans are not – not even a footnote that they were ever here or played a role in the development of America. Many other groups from Asia, Africa and Mexico, as well as Native Americans receive extensive coverage in the instruction received by California students.

It’s time to end the historic exclusion of Italian Americans from the school curriculum and from the educational experience of California students. A recent study of California textbooks by a team of University scholars revealed that of all the major cultural groups in America, only the Italians were left out of the textbooks used in California schools. This is a shame! And it is not an accurate portrayal of history. The role and contributions of Italian Americans to the creation and development of America have been enormous. Yet, the persistent discrimination Italian Americans suffer continues in the official history of the country. This represents second class citizenship and treatment from our educational institutions. In order to correct this injustice, a new legislative initiative – Assembly Bill 1863 - has been introduced in California by Assembly
Member Anthony Portantino of Pasadena. This modest Bill would provide that the role and contributions of Italian Americans be added to those of the groups already included in the school curriculum. For Italian Americans, this is a matter of social justice – a matter of equal treatment and equal history.

The Portantino Bill is co-authored by several other Italian American Legislators including George Plescia of San Diego, Kathleen Galgiani of Stockton and Don Perata of Oakland. The Bill is sponsored by the California Italian American Task Force, a State Commission created by the Legislature and appointed by the Governor to address the concerns of Italian Americans in California. The Italian American Education Bill is the number one educational policy initiative of the Task Force. Italian Americans are not well served by the current school curriculum which excludes them from American history. This legislative initiative is our hope to end the generations of exclusion and provide society with more accurate images of who and what we are and how Italian Americans contributed to American society. For further information about the Bill or the Task Force contact by e-mail Bill Cerruti at: or tel: 916/482-5900.


"Italians not in the history books." This isn't what I know to be sane. Some could argue that this is the result of "ethnic interest group lobbying" or the new anti-Europeanism, except that other European heritage groups are not included in this situation. Lets face it, we've been in the process of being pushed out by sheer numbers for about fifty years now. Maybe longer.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Northern Italians in the Gold Rush

This history of the Gold Rush was basically about immigrants from the Genoa area. I had used this one on an earlier website a few years ago, and I recall there was more of a writeup on Olivia "Grandma" Rolleri with an image. I don't recall if I saved that or not. Many of the locations here have been made into landmarks, so we will have to compile a list at some point.


The Italian Legacy in the Mother Lode


Nearly 200 members of the Sacramento Italian Cultural Society and the Folsom Historical Society attended the opening reception for the exhibit "Nostra Storia" on January 28, 2000. This is a unique story about that wave of people from Italy, primarily from the area around Genoa in the region of Liguria, who settled in the foothills of the Mother Lode region of Northern California in the Mid-19th century. This is the first time that an exhibit has been created to tell the story of these enterprising people who contributed so much to the economic and cultural fabric of California. The history of the Italian Americans is often relegated to the margins of American and California history despite the fact that the Italians are the 5th largest ancestry group in America with more than 25 million Americans claiming to be of Italian decent. Some two million California's are of Italian decent, In fact, for much of California's history, the Italians have been the largest immigrant group in the State

This exhibit is part of the determination by us, this generation of Italians, to see that our story is told and included in the history of the nation so we to can snare in that history. It is well known that from the 1880's to the 1940's, the Italians were among the largest of the immigrant groups to settle in America. But less is known about the earlier wave of Italians from northern Italy who established their economic and cultural communities across the United States. It was in California that their communities and enterprises flourished the most. We have all benefited from their legacy. From our access to banking services to the food we eat, we are all indebted to these pioneers for the inheritance they have left us.

This story, like so many others about the Italians, would not have been told without the financial and intellectual resources devoted to this project by a committed Italian American institution in our community such as the Italian Cultural Society of Sacramento. It takes a large financial investment to put such an exhibit and a well organized team of Italian American scholars and activists that can make such a project a reality. This project, like so many others sponsored by the Society, is a reflection of the need for Italian American institutions like the Society to maintain our Italian community and speak for us when no one else well. That is why we work so hard at marshaling the resources of our community to support these goals.

This exhibit is our way of saying thank you to those who preceded us but it is also a way of showing out pride in our contributions to American life. This exhibit is also our way of connecting our past to our future as a community, a people. Without a knowledge of our past we have no memory upon which to build our future and the Italian American movement in the United States is about creating a future for us as we have helped create the past. Without a vibrant Italian American community we can no longer make such a contribution to American society.

This exhibit which will become a traveling exhibit, will join the Italian American World War II exhibit "Una Storia Segreta" and other exhibits being developed about the Italians in California agriculture, in the coastal fishing communities and in the urban centers and other regions of California. None of these exhibits has a home. One of the priority public policy goals of the statewide Italian American community is to establish a California Italian American Museum to house these and other exhibits under development. One of the primary goals of the "Italians in the Mother Lode project" is to establish a regional Italian American Museum in the Mother Lode where our story can be collected and displayed. The support and leadership of the Italian American community is vital to the success of these projects.

Arrival and Settlement

The story of the American West would be incomplete without telling the story of the Italian settlement of the west. This is especially true of California and the settlement of the Gold Country counties of the" Mother Lode" of Northern California. The Italians were one of the earliest and most important groups of people to settling the California foothills of the Sierra Nevada referred to as the "Mother Lode".The Italians settlement in the Mother Lode began with the Gold Rush. From the 1850s through the 1880s, Italian immigrants from Northern Italy, primarily from the area around Genoa in the region of Liguria, settled in large numbers in the Mother Lode counties of California's Gold Country.

The Italians came early in the states history. Lured by the promise of gold and land, the early Italian pioneers of California came to stay. Here they could use the traditional skills of their cultural heritage to develop the land and the region. The Italian immigrants established themselves in the mining, cattle ranching, lumbering, construction and stone masonry, fruit and vegetable market gardening, orchard, grocery, olive oil, railroading, mercantile, banking, restaurant, hotel and boardinghouse, and the vineyard and the wine industries of the California Gold Country. Their descendents still carry on the traditions brought to early California by the people from Italy. Seven Sisters Arriving From Genoa 1853Their heaviest settlement was in the southern Mother Lode and by 1870, 25 percent of the Italian population of California lived in the three foothill counties of Amador, Calaveras and Tuolumme. They were soon one of the largest immigrant groups in the Mother Lode. Most came from the same region of Italy and represented the distinctive chain migration of the Italians from the area around Genoa, especially from the province of Chiavari. Later waves of Italian immigrants from Liguria and other regions of Italy, such as the Venetians from the Veneto region also settled in the Gold Country and carried on the traditions brought by the early Italian pioneers. To this day, the Mother Lodes populated by many Italian Families that have their roots in the Gold Rush.

Gold Rush and Mining

Beginning with the Gold Rush of 1848, Italian miners played an important role in the mining industry of California. Attracted by the discovery gold, the early Italian gold miners left their legacy emblazoned in history on historic places with names like Italian Camp, Italian Diggings, Italian Bar and the Italian Bar Trail in Tuolumne County, the Italian Mine in Nevada City and Italian Bar on the American River in El Dorado County.

Between the 1860s and 1890s, numerous quartz and gravel mines along the mining belts of the Mother Lode were operated by Italian miners such as La Fortuna Mine, the Volponi, the Garabina, the Porto Fino , and the Bella Vista.

During the later deep mining period of the 19th and 20th century, Italian miners were recruited from Italy by the large mines to work the deep veins in both northern southern mines. By the turn of the century, the Italians were among the largest of the European immigrant groups in the mines.

The Italian Garden

Mother Lode residents, isolated from major population centers, were dependent on local market gardeners and ranchers for their foodstuffs. Many Italians, attracted by mining, turned to market gardening and farming to meet the demands of the local population for fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products, grain and wine. By the 1860s, many Italians in the Mother Lode were operating these agricultural enterprises. By 1880, around 1200 commercial market gardens were being operated in California by an estimated 10,000 people from the region around Genoa, Italy, who dominated the industry. The picture to the left is a Italian Garden at Mokelumne Hill.

The Italian Gardens involved the entire Italian family. Women as well as men worked raising the vegetables. The plowing and cultivating was done with horses while the hoeing and cultivating of small plants was done by hand with a zappa, a short-handled Italian hoe.

Italian Gardens were operated throughout the Mother Lode. Some of the most prominent were the upper and lower "Italian Gardens" at Mokelume Hill. Another, The Italian "Pa-ta-ta" Ranch at Bald Mountain was started in 1862 as a cooperative garden by six young Italian miners. The ranch was referred to as "Little Genoa" because of the large number of Italian families that lived there and their use of the Genovese dialect.

Some of the other well-known Italian Gardens were the Volponi Gardens in Sonora, the Podesta Gardens in Columbia, The Gardella Gardens in Mokelumne Hill, the Sanguinetti Gardens in Vallecito, the Costa Gardens in Calaveritas, the Cavalero Gardens at Sonora and the Palemone Gardens in Tuolumne.

The Italians also played an important role in developing the early Olive Oil industry in the foothills. The Orsi family in Roseville was a major producer of olive oil until the mid 20th century. The rolling hills of the Gold Country, which resemble the Mediterranean hills of Liguria, are dotted with the remnants of the early Italian olive tree orchards and with new orchards reflecting the rebirth of this ancient tradition from Italy.

Stone Masons & Wood Cutters

Italians have worked in the Lumbering industry throughout the forested hills of the Mother Lode since the Gold Rush. They were heavily involved in logging and harvested timber off their ranches which delivered to the mines by horse team. Many of the Italian immigrants were woodcutters and the landscape was covered by the cabins of Italians woodcutters who split wood to make the charcoal used in the mining forges.

The Italian immigrants brought their skill in working with stone from Liguria, a rugged and mountainous land with an estimated 25,000 miles of terraced hillsides.

Crews of Italians skilled in rock work helped build the mountain roads carved out of the canyon walls of the western Sierra's from Nevada City to Yosemite. The old stone terraces on todays Gold Country ranches and along its roadsides are a reminder of this cultural tradition. The picture to the right is a Old Stone Mill, Liguria, Italy.

Ranching, an Italian-American Tradition

For the past 150 years, many Italian families have made their living off of cattle ranching in the Mother Lode foothills at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The early Italian immigrants became one of the main groups in the ranching industry of the Sierra foothills which are dotted with Italian family ranches to the present day.

Some of the oldest ranches in the Mother Lode were started by the early Italian pioneers, The Fregulia Ranch in Jackson was started in 1852 by Domenico Fregulia

from Genoa and is operated as a cattle ranch today by great-granddaughter Carolyn Fregulia and her three children. Giuseppe Rosasco came from Genoa in 1860 and by 1907, the Rosasco family owned seven ranches in Tuolumne County. To the right is the Old blacksmith shop on the Fregulia Ranch at Jackson, California dating from the 19th century.

The family still operates a 5,000 acre ranch near Sonora. The Cuneo ranch at Calaveritas was started in 1850 by immigrants from Genoa and is still operated by the Cuneo family as is the Sanguinetti Ranch and scores of other Italian family ranches in the region.

Italian Merchants

The history of the Mother Lode is also the history of the many Italian merchants that have operated businesses from the Gold Rush to the present. Some of the earliest merchants in the Gold Country were Italian Immigrants. Among the early Italian pioneers who established general stores were Luigi Costa in 1852 in Calaveritas; Louis Trabucco in 1850 in Hornitos; Joseph Arata in 1854 in Vallecito, Domenico Ghiradelli in 1855 in Hornitos, Agostino Chichizola in 1850 in Jackson; Frank Cuneo in 1857 in San Antonio Camp, Giuseppe Prince in 1857 in Altaville, Nicolas Pendola in 1859 in Angels Camp, John Peirano in 1854 in Angels Camp, Carlo Marre in 1858 in Jackson, Francesco Bruschi in 1854 in Coulterville, Andrew Olcese in 1861 in Mariposa, Enrico Bruno in 1857 in Butte City, Nicolas Quirolo in 1861 in Todds Valley, Bartolomeo Dughi in 1860 in Mountain Ranch and Gerolomo Tiscornia in 1868 in San Andreas. The Costa Store in Calaveritas has been restored by the Cuneo family as has the Chichizola Store at Jackson Gate. The Butte Store, operated by the Ginocchio family until 1926, is a State Historic Landmark.

One of the best examples of Italian architecture in the region is the Giuseppe Murer House in Folsom which was built by an enterprising immigrant who arrived in 1906 from the Veneto region of Italy. The Murer House is now a historic site and museum. The picture to the right is the Chichizola Store at Jackson Gate, Amador County, California.

Boarding Houses & Hotels

In the rural settlements of the foothills, miners and single men often lived in boarding houses owned and operated by fellow Italians. Some of the well-known Italian boarding houses of the past were Calaveras Hotel in Angels Camp; Bisordi's Itala Hotel in Sonora; the Torino Hotel in Nevada City; the Trabucco Hotel in Mt. Bullion; the Colombo Hotel in San Andreas and the Europa Hotel in Sonora.

Bisord's Italia HotelOlivia "Grandma" Rolleri came to Sonora from Genoa in 1860 at age 16. Left with 11 children after her husband died in 1884, she became a prominent businesswoman who established the Calaveras Hotel in 1887 and owned several cattle ranches and mining interests. The Calaveras Hotel contained more than 50 rooms, a butcher shop, saloon and barber shop under one roof. Sunday dinners were famous and people came from across the county for family homestyle dinners and to take home "ravioli," She operated the hotel for 40 years until 1927.

Italian Stone Ovens, a Unique Tradition

One of the cultural traditions brought to the Gold Country by the Italian immigrants was the tradition of baking in stone ovens. Many Italian families used outdoor stone ovens to bake bread, a vital part of Italian culture. Around 100 stone ovens have been identified in Calaveras, Amador and Tuolumne and dot the countryside where the Italians settled. "Victoria's Oven" was moved from the Ratto Ranch to the Calaveras Museum in 1994 where bread is once again baked fresh from this historic oven.

The oven to the left is from the Fregolia ranch.

Family & Community

The Italian immigrants to the Mother Lode established their own cultural communities wherever they settled. They had their own "Little Italy" communities such as at Jackson Gate and at Clinton in Amador County. To this day, Jackson Gate is the site of several Italian family restaurants and Clinton Road, is lined with Italian Ranches.

The Italian pioneers celebrated their pride in their Italian heritage by building "Bocce" courts, holding Columbus Day celebrations, and forming mutual benefit organizations.

There are a number of Italian organizations serving the Italians, in the Mother Lode. The Gold Country Italian American Club in Grass Valley plays bocce at the courts it has built in the local public park and the Italian Benevolent Society in Amador, organized in 1881, holds an annual "Italian Festa" at the " Italian Society Park " at Sutter Hill. The Society is 118, years old and made up of descendents of the early Italian immigrants to the Mother Lode.

Columbus Day Parade 1890Angelo Noce, an Italian immigrant to Clinton in 1858, is credited as the "Father of Columbus Day" in the United States for obtaining recognition of Columbus Day as a legal holiday by thirtyfive states. Native son, Andrew Caminetti, born in Jackson Gate in 1854 of Italian immigrant parents, was the first native-born California elected to the United States Congress.

From Italy to California

The early Italian settlement of the Mother Lode mining counties of northern California was part of the larger settlement of California by Italian people from the region of Liguria.

During the mid-19th century, Italian immigrants from the region of Liguria in Italy settled in the major cities of the United States and established Italian communities in places like New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, and New York. The arrival of these "Genovesi" in California, beginning in the 1850's, coincided with the early development of the state. As a result, the Italians played a vital role in the creation of California.

It wasn't long before Italian fishermen had established themselves in fishing villages from Eureka to Benicia, Martinez, Pittsburg, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, San Diego and Monterey.

By the 1880's, California had become a leading fishery and its coastal waters were dominated by Italian fishermen and their graceful sailing "felucca's"

Across the state, the Italians also settled the states farmlands and played a prominent role in developing today's fruit, vegetable, and dairy industries. By the 1880's, Italians dominated the fruit and vegetable industry in the great Central Valleys of California. Italian immigrants also left their mark on the California food processing industry. Marco Fontana arrived in the United States in 1859 and along with another Ligurian, Antonio Cerruti, established a chain of canneries under the "Del Monte" label. Most of their workers were Italian and their cannery soon became the largest in the world.

Another enterprising Italian was Domenico Ghiradelli, who traveled through the gold mines in the 1850's, selling chocolates, and hard candies. He settled in San Francisco after the Gold Rush and founded the Ghiradelli chocolate empire, with Italian immigrant labor, at the site of the present Ghiradelli Square.

The California wine industry also owes much to the Italian founders of the industry. Italians have been planting vineyards and making wine in America since the early colonial days when Filippo Mazzei, planted vineyards with Thomas Jefferson. The founding of the Italian Swiss Colony, at Asti in 1881 as a cooperative of Italian immigrants from the wine growing regions of Italy promoted the widespread participation and success of the Italians in the California wine industry and the vineyards of the Napa, and Sonoma valleys.

One of the most inspiring of California's Italians was Amadeo Pietro Giannini who was born 1870 to immigrant Italian parents from Genoa. He started the first statewide system of branch banks in the nation by opening branches of his Bank of Italy, in the Italian neighborhoods, across the state. He later changed the name of his bank to Bank of America which became the largest bank in the world.

More than most people realize, the Italian Americans helped shape the cultural landscape of California and the modern West. The enterprise and success of these Italian pioneers is a unique legacy – one shared by all of us.

The Italian Legacy in the Mother Lode (Sacramento Italian Cultural Society)