Professor Seth Bernard’s Historical Culture in Iron Age Italy: Archaeology, History, and the Use of the Past, 900-300 BCE, a cultural history of Italy before and during the time of early Roman expansion, was published today, September 8th, through Oxford University Press. The book has been lauded for its “innovative application of the concept of ‘historical culture’” and “accessible presentation of recent archaeological discoveries.” It is available for purchase on the OUP website.
This is Professor Bernard’s second book-length publication of 2003, following Making the Middle Republic: New Approaches to Rome and Italy, c. 400-200 BCE, co-edited with Lisa Marie Mignone, Research Affiliate at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, and Dan-el Padilla Peralta, Associate Professor of Classics at Princeton University.
Long before the emergence of Roman historical writing, the societies of Iron Age Italy were actively engaged in transmitting and using their past. This book provides a first account of this early historical interest, providing a sort of prehistory of historical thought in Italy leading down to the first encounters with Roman expansion. From the Early Iron Age to the fifth and fourth centuries BCE, Italian communities can be seen actively using burial practices, images, special objects, calendars, and various other media to record and transmit history. Drawing from current anthropological and archaeological theory, the book argues for collecting this material together under the broad rubric of "historical culture," as the socialized mode of engagement with the past.
The prevailing mode of historical culture in Italy develops alongside the wider structures of society, from the Early Iron Age to the early stages of urbanization, to the first encounters with Rome. Throughout the period, Italy's many communities possessed a far more extensive interest in history than scholarship has previously acknowledged. The book's fresh account of this historical culture also includes accessible presentation of several recent and important archaeological discoveries. Historical Culture in Iron Age Italy will be of wide interest to historians and archaeologists of Early Rome and Italy, as well as all those thinking broadly about modes of historical transmission, and the intersections between archaeology and history.